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9 Calf oC i^t B-ott^ in f^t 

S,.^ G?^W«' DASENT, D.C.L., 


VOL. I. 


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The events related in the following story- 
are in the main historical. It cannot be gain- 
said that towards the close of the tenth century 
a formidable free company of Vikings, or sea- 
rovers, had established themselves, under laws 
of their own, in an impregnable fortress on the 
shore of the Baltic, at the mouth of the Oder. 
No less certain is it that, first under the cap- 
tainship of their founder, Palnatoki, and after 
his death under that of Sigvald, the son of 
Strut-Harold, those free-booters were a thorn 
in the side of the Wendish kings on whose 
soil their stronghold lay, and still more in 
that of the kings of Denmark, from whose 
subjects that famous company was for the most 
part recruited, Jomsburg was an asylum for 
all the bold spirits and dashing blades of the 
time, and every man who joined the band was 
so much strength taken from the vigour of the 




land to which he by birth belonged. Besides, 
in the case of Denmark there were added 
wrongs received and grudges harboured, not so 
much by the people as by the royal house. In 
the days of Harold Bluetooth, not only had 
Palnatoki fostered and backed Sweyn, his out- 
law son, but his unerring arrow had slain King 
Harold himself, and thus thrown on Sweyn 
the sacred duty of revenge. More than this, 
Sweyn was hardly seated on his father's throne 
than he was seized by Sigvald, who in the 
meantime had succeeded Palnatoki as captain 
of the company, and carried off to Jomsburg, 
where he was forced against his wUl to marry 
a Wendish princess. 

Equally certain it is, that at the solemn 
funeral ale, or feast of heirship, which Sigvald, 
by the customs of his race and age, was bound 
to hold on the occasion of his father's death. 
King Sweyn^ finding himself too weak to cope 
openly with the Vikings, led them on, when 
they were wild with drink, to make rash vows, 
which bound them to attack Hacon, the mighty 
Earl of Norway ; and thus to embark on an 
expedition which cut off the flower of their 


company, and so brought about the ruin of 

It must be observed, however, that modem 
criticism, while allowing the truth of each of 
the events narrated in the story, has, for good 
reasons of its own, thought it right to arrange 
them in a somewhat diflferent order, and thus 
to disturb that natural sequence according to 
which we find them described in the Saga of 
the Vikings of Jomsburg, which may be read 
in the original in the eleventh volume of the 
'^Fommanna Sogur." But while we bow in 
matters of critical history to such authorities as 
Munch and Dahlmann, it is enough for our 
present purpose to point out the fact that the 
poetic treatment of the story of these Vikings, 
as it was roimded into shape in. the Icelandic of 
the fourteenth century, has a truth and warmth 
and beauty of its own which far outweigh the 
worth of any historical skeleton, however care- 
fully its dry bones may have been collected and 
strung together. 

For this reason the Saga of the Vikings of 
Jomsturg has been followed as a guide in this 
story, in which it is hoped that something may 


be found of the strength and spirit with which 
the wonderful adventures of that famous com- 
pany are narrated in the original. Having said 
so much, the work must speak for itself. If it 
should persuade any reader to turn to that 
great storehouse of literature of which the 
Icelandic language holds the key, and to prove 
for himself what is historical and what fiction 
in these volumes, the writer will be well 
repaid. He has taken the liberty to put a free 
translation of the famous Dirge on King Eric 
Bloody-axe into the mouth of the Skald Einar 
Scaleclang, and to apply it to the death of 
Erlend, Hacon's son. A few lines quoted from 
memory out of the poems of his dear friend 
John Sterling, have also been given to the same 
Icelandic Skald. 






IV. — KING Harold's burial ale 





IX.-=-SIGVALD's wooing and KING BURISLAF*8 


























Now we must go away from this nineteenth 
•century, with its manners and customs, its De- 
Tastations and Ruperts, and Armstrong and 
Palliser guns, far, far away into the North, in 
the tenth century, with its bows and arrows and 
1)road axes and spears. You do not care to 
follow me ? Oh yes, you will ; for this will be 
a very amusing story, full of perilous ventures 
and hairbreadth escapes, and so utterly different 
from your humdrum and everyday existence — 
for I will not call it life — that the mere con- 
trast must be as refreshing to you as a dose of 
. quinine to a fever-stricken man on the Gold 

There is no question, therefore, of going or 

TOL. I. B 


not going. You are to follow whither I lead 
you, and in an instant, quicker even than the^ 
flash of the electric spark, time and space are 
suspended, and you are standing with me within 
the walls of Jomsburg, on the east shore of the 
Baltic, in the last quarter of the tenth century 
of the Christian sera. And now, before the 
story begins, do let me beg you to shake off alL 
that cant of conventionalities called civilization, 
and forgetting all the prejudices which have 
been engendered in your nature in all the ages 
between this and the tenth century, enter fully 
and freely into the life and being of tlie mea 
and women whom you are about to meet. 

Jomsburg was a castle, that the ending -borg 
or -burg implies ; but what was Jom ? I am 
afraid the answer must be left in doubt. Whe- 
ther it were the name of a man or of a place,, 
there in the tenth century stood the castle, not 
far from the modern WoUin in Pomerania. 
That part of Germany, as we should now call 
it, was then held by the Wends, for the most 
part a heathen Sclavonic race, whose name 
still lingers in the Wends in Lusatia, as well 
as in the title which the King of Sweden 


takes as Lord of "the Goths and Vandals." 
The names of the Wendish kings in those 
days were very Sclavonic, and very jaw- 
breaking. Burislaf is the easiest of them, and 
Mieczyslaf not nearly the hardest. In this story 
they will trouble us little ; a fact which I an- 
nounce with great satisfaction both to my read- 
ers and myself. Who can read a tale of fiction 
with any comfort out loud when utterance is at- 
tended with the probable loss of one's front 
teeth ? A very short course of these Wendish 
names would turn a man into a confirmed stut- 
terer for life. But if we are not to use Wendish 
names, how can we write of a Wendish castle ? 
Did not Burislaf own it? No, he did not. 
He was Lord paramount of Jomsburg indeed, 
but quite another race held it, and that was 
why the name sounds so easy. Jomsburg was 
a castle held by a band of Scandinavian sea- 
rovers, who used it as an asylum for themselves 
and their ill-gotten or well-gotten goods. They 
had seized it and fortified it without the leave of 
the Lord paramoimt, who, not being strong 
enough to turn the intruders out, did the next 
best thing, made friends with them, accepted 

n 2 


the ' situation, and looked at last on the Joms- 
burgers in the light rather of friends than ene- 
mies, and as the garrison of a stronghold which 
kept off worse enemies. On their part, the sea- 
rovers or Vikings forebore to waste or harry the 
Wendish lands ; their hands were against every 
man but the subjects of the Wendish King, and 
so at last they were regarded as friends rather 
than foes, and as a source of strength instead of 
weakness to the Wendish King. 

When we talk of a castle, we are not to rush 
off with our fourteenth century notions of a 
graceful structure like Carnarvon or Conway. 
It was no Edwardian pile that Palnatoki, for 
that was the name of their first captain, built 
for his Vikings on the Baltic coast. They were 
sea-rovers, and as he pushed along the low 
sandy Wendish shore, he spied out an inlet in 
that tideless sea into which he could always run 
his galleys, and which would hold 300 ships. 
His first need was a constant depth of water 
and a land-locked harbour, and this he found at 
Jom or Jomi. All round the inlet he threw a wall 
or curtain of cyclopean architecture ; huge ram- 
parts more than thirty feet high, and of immense 


thickness. Here and there on the wall were 
low towers, out of which the garrison could look 
landward, though, as we have seen, as time 
went on, there was little need to look for an 
inland attack. It was from the sea that the 
Vikings expected enemies, and the defences at 
the mouth of the harbour were very strong. It 
was there that the Vaubans of Jomsburg ex- 
hausted all their devices. Across the narrow en- 
trance, which would only admit one ship at a 
tinie, a rude arch was turned, and under it, as 
ship followed ship lowering her single mast, 
they shot into the smooth water of the haven. 
Over this portal was raised the only approach 
to a castle which Jomsburg possessed. It was tall 
and massive, and shapeless, built out into the sea 
on either side of the arch and towering above it 
in twa stories. Woe betide the war galley that 
tried to forc§ a way into that harbour, the en- 
trance to which was further barred by booms 
and chains. In that tower were piled up huge 
stones, which might be suddenly dropped 
through slits in the masonry on the devoted 
vessel, as soon as she had reached the arch. 
Within these Cyclopean walls the rovers or Vi- 


kings of that famous free company, the condoU 
tieri of the sea, lived in the wooden houses of 
the time, when they were not skimming the 
western waters in quest of booty and renown. 
They had arisen out of the turbulence of the 
time. Old things were passing away in the 
North, and the new were not yet established ; 
the ancient respect for the royal families and 
petty princes of the Scandinavian kingdoms was 
waning, and in the attempt to establish dynas- 
ties the Kings of Denmark, Sweden, and Nor- 
way had abandoned for the most part the duty 
of leading their adventurous youth to expedi* 
tions by sea. They were too busy at home to 
care any longer for the harvest of the waves. 
The age of Ragnar Lodbrog was over, and the 
system of Harold Fairhair was yet in its infancy. 
The northern kingdoms were slowly taking con- 
stitutional shape and settling do\pL into a new 
form ; but all over the north the old sea-roving 
spirit still burned in many bosoms with a fierce 
flame, and when their natural leaders failed 
them, free bands of Vikings arose, of which this 
famous company at Jomsburg was at once the 
foremost and most famous. These political 


'Causes were disturbing enough to throw the 
time out of gear and joint, but at the end of the 
tenth century a new root of discord was added, 
in those germs of the Christian behef, which, 
first sown by the Emperor Otho in Denmark, 
gradually spread over the whole North, but not 
without years of obstinate struggles and frequent 

So now we have arrived at some notion of 
Jomsburg and the Jomsburgers. It was a 
stronghold held with the tacit leave of the 
Wendish King, by a mighty band of free- 
booters, or Vikings, as they were then called. 
But we should much mistake the feelings which 
filled their breasts, and the ties which bound 
them together, if we imagined them to be a 
mere mass of vulgar pirates, only fit to be exe- 
vcuted at the yard-arm. They were sea-rovers, 
because sea-roving was an honourable profession ; 
just as much so as war in modern times, and 
this story will at least show that the Viking of 
the tenth century not only swept the seas and 
•carried all before him, but that his career was 
. .full of ambition and of high enterprise. 

Nor was it a band into which any warrior or 


sea-rover might be enrolled for the asking.. 
Very strict and searching were the enquiries in^ 
each case before admission to the band was 
allowed, and very stem were the conditions of 
remaining in it. In these respects it might bo 
called a competitive examination, by which the 
way was opened to Jomsburg and the ranks of 
the sea-rovers recruited. No man might be older 
than thirty or younger than eighteen on ad- 
mission. No one might stay in the company: 
who yielded to a warrior equipped with the same 
arms as himself. Every man who entered was 
bound to make a solemn vow to avenge each of 
the others as he would his messmate or his own 
brother. No man was to slander one of the 
band, or to spread any news till its publication 
WHS sanctioned by the captain of the band. If 
he did so he was at once expelled. Even in the 
case of the paramount duty of that age, the 
sacred obligation to avenge a blood relation, if 
two such natural enemies met in the company, the 
captain was to settle what atonement should be 
made in money, and then the blood feud was to 
abate. All the spoil which the band took was to be 
shared in common, and if sold, sold for the good 


of all. If anyone was convicted of holding any- 
thing back he was to be at once expelled ; and if 
in any trouble or contest anyone so far forgot 
himself as to utter a word of complaint or fear, 
he was regarded as a coward and forced to leave^ 
the company. All admissions were to be decided 
by the valour and prowess of the applicant, and 
no considerations of kinship or favour were to 
be listened to. Last and not least, no one waa 
to be absent from the castle longer than three^ 
nights without the captain's leave, and na 
woman was ever to be admitted into it. 

Such were the articles of agreement under 
which the Vikings of Jomsburg, at once the 
terror and glory of the North, had been founded; 
and under these the band, which went out every 
summer to harry, returning in the winter to 
divide and enjoy their spoil, had won itself a 
name for prowess and hardihood, until it 
numbered amongst the brotherhood the boldest 
warriors of the North and West, and its name 
was synonymous with all that the Scandinavian 
race had to boast of in daring and renown. 



Now we are inside the burg. Below us is 
the land-locked harbour filled with the long-ships 
•of the band. Behind us are the huge rough 
walls, and before us the loghouses built of timber 
•of roughly squared fir-trees, in which the rank 
and file of the Vikings dwelt. Out of one of 
them appear close to us two of the band, one a 
man long passed fifty, and the other a lad, tall 
and strong, indeed, but whose youthful face 
hardly shows the eighteen summers which were 
needed for his election to the band. On all 
sides are groups of stalwart warriors, some 
tarring or painting their ships, some cleaning or 
polishing their arms. These are the axe, the 
bow, the sword, and the spear ; except a steel hat 
or two, and very rarely a " byrnie ^^ or shirt of 
linked mail, we see no defensive armour but the 
^shield of oblong shape running down into a 


point. Making allowance for the change of 
times, the scene is not unlike the noise and 
hum of a modern dockyard. 

We forgot to say that all round the wall, 
though at long intervals, stood sentinels, who, 
like those of our own time, spent their time 
idly for years, that they might be ready to give 
the alarm when some danger arose, and which 
in all probability would never come. Over the 
arch at the mouth of the haven stood a warder, 
with his horn ready to sound a blast of warning 
should any stranger approach the castle from the 
sea. But let us listen to what the two warriors 
nearest to us say. 

" I tell you, foster-child,'^ said the older man, 
^Hhat this will never be for the good of the 
band. What would your grandfather, our 
founder, have said of such things ? I say it 
again, the company is on the way to ruin. The 
laws should not be broken.'^ 

" They were broken when I came among you,'* 
«aid the younger, " and you break them now, 
Beorn, when you speak against the captain." 

" Broken, indeed," said Beorn, looking at the 
lad with pride. "Broken, indeed, when you 


came among us. Did you not come here in your 
grandsire's time, just before he died, and did he 
not refuse to let you enter the band because you 
were too young ? and did you not challenge our 
new captain Sigvald, him whom we now have, 
to single combat, outside the harbour, with two- 
ships and one hundred picked men on each side I 
and did not Sigvald at last turn on his heel and 
fly before you ? and then, did not all the band 
who, with your grandsire, looked on from the 
walls, declare that, though only sixteen, you were 
man enough for us when you could make one of 
our bravest warriors turn and fly ? and so you 
were chosen to be one of us. That was breaking 
the law, it is true, and it is always bad to break 
the law ; but this which our new captain Sigvald 
is going to do is breaking it in a worse way. 
If women once come within the castle, there is 
an end of Jomsburg and the Vikings. 

" How do you know, foster-father, that the 
Captain has such things in his heart ? One may 
know that a girl is lovely, and feel it, without 
bringing her into the Castle." 

" Now, Vagn, my foster-child," said the old man 
with a chuckle, " you are thinking of that cruise 


•of ours last summer to " the Bay " in Norway, 
-when we harried Thorkell of Leira's land, and 
•carried off his cattle and goods. You are think- 
ing of Ingibeorg, that lovely lass whom we met 
in the wood the day we landed, and whom 
you would have carried off, only the law is, as 
the law ought to be, that no woman shall set 
her foot in Jomsburg, and so it ought to 
be. Vikings should have naught to do with 

While Beorn was growling out these disre- 
spectful things against the fair sex, a blush spread 
over the fair face of the young warrior, and it 
was easy to see from the mantling hue that he 
had not forgotten that fair Norwegian maiden. 
All he said was : 

*' We could not carry her off except to sell her 
as a slave, and that would have been too great 
an indignity even for the proud Thorkell ; but 
enough of that. I say again, foster-father, what 
makes you say that the Captain is going to break 
the law ? '' 

" One of these Wendish fellows told me,*' said 
the old man ; " whether he were heathen or 
Christian I know not, but he said that the 


Captain had sent word to King Burislaf that he 
wished to marry his daughter." 

" Marry his daughter," burst out Vagn. 
" Then, if the Captain marries his daughter, the 
rest of the band might marry/' 

" And if they did, what would happen? " said 
the old Viking violently. "The castle would 
be filled with screaming women and squalling 
children. The good old Viking times are over, you 
know ; you can't spit a baby now on a spear, or 
get rid of it in that way. We should all quarrel. 
The castle would be filled with gossip and 
slander. Tale-bearing would follow child-bear- 
ing. There will be no comfort, no peace ; we 
shan't even be able to get our meals in 

" They would save us trouble in cooking," said 

'* Cooking!" retorted Beorn. "My Welsh 
thrall Griffin will cook against all the women in 
the world, as you know well. But there's no 
use talking of it, foster-child ; if the Captain 
breaks the law, there's an end to the glory of 

As he said this, two men came up to them ; 



\)oth of commanding presence, and one tall be- 
yond the stature of men. 

" The glory of Jomsburg, Beorn," said the 
shorter of the two. " I hope the glory of Joms- 
burg will always be as great under my rule as 
under that of our founder Palnatoki. Nay ! 
that it will be greater." 

" Never praise the day, Sigvald, till it is over,^' 
said Beom. " You are our Captain, and a brave 
one, but your rule is not over like that of Palna- 
toki. He is dead and gone, and he ever led us 
to victory and kept the law." 

** Except when he broke it, Beorn," said the 
Captain, for it was he, as he pointed to Vagn 
with his axe. 

"I wish," said Beorn, " that no one may ever 
break it for a worse cause. Sometimes, as the 
saw says, laws are made to be broken." 

*' So they are, Beorn," said the taller of the 
two, and I am sure my brother will never break 
them except for the common good." 

"Tall as Yggdrasil's Ash^ fair of face, glib of 
tongue, and strong as a bear," said Beorn. " So 
you are, and so you will ever be Thorkell the 
Tall ; but for all that, you never will lay your 


tones in Jomsburg. That I can spae, without 
asking either the Christian God or Thorgerda 
Shrinebride, Earl Hacon's idol/' 

« Why so, Beorn ? " 

" Because you are too easy and yielding," said 
the veteran. " There is not a man among us 
who can reach farther with his axe ; at one sweep 
of your sword men fly asunder, shorn through 
the middle, their head one way and their heels 
the other ; with your bow, so long as your arrows 
last, you could keep off a host. The only man 
we have seen like you in these waters is the 
Icelander Gunnar of Lithend; but for all that you 
are too easily led astray. The Captain's brother, 
you ought to see that the laws of the company 
are kept." 

"Come, Beorn,'' said Sigvald, "can you say 
that the company was ever so strong? last sum- 
«ner our war-snakes swarmed on the waters of the 
West. Thralls from Ireland, maids from Scotland , 
mead and cloth and honey from England, wine 
from France and Spain — have we not all these 
in Jomsburg ? Had we ever more gallant men 
ov braver ships ? Is not Burislaf both afraid of 
•us and proud of us. Afraid, lest we should 


become his foes, and proud of us as his 
friends V 

" Burislaf/^ growled out Beorn in disgust, more 
like the bear after which he was called than a 
iuman being. 

"Why Burislaf?'' asked Thorkell, imitating 
the growl in a way which made all the rest but 
Beorn laugh. 

" Because I hate Burislaf and all his kin and 
race/' said the old Viking. " First of all I hate 
to be at peace with any man or any thing, and 
we are always at peace with Burislaf. Our 

hands ought to be against every man, and ours 
are never against him. He lets us bide here in 
this asylum, and his bards call us his vassals.'* 

" Vassals ! *' exclaimed the Captain. " Vas- 
sals ! Pretty vassals who seized a town and 
held it against all comers, and a pretty liege 
lord who never dare come into his own town. 
We Vikings are King Burislaf s friends, and ho 
is our friend. He loves us because no foes ever 
dare invade his coast so long as we hold Joms* 
burg, but we do not hold it of King Burislaf. It 
is our good swords that are our liege lords.'* 

'* Bravely spoken, and well spoken,'* said 

VOL. I. 


Beorn ; " but what I said to my foster-chilcF 
Vagn here, I will say out boldly to you Captain, 
It is true that we were never stronger. Never, 
ever in the days of Palnatoki my foster-brother, 
was Jomsburg so full of spoil. It is not that. 
We are too prosperous perhaps ; but it is the 
law that gets weaker among us, and by law, that 
is by our Viking law, was this famous fellow- 
ship founded, and by law will it be upheld.'* 

** And is it not upheld ? '^ asked Sigvald. 

" No it is not — not as it used to be," said 
Beorn. " Men sleep out of the burg of nights 
with your leave, sometimes a whole week at a 
time, visiting their friends in the country rounds 
as if a Viking ought to have any friends except 
his brothers in arms." 

" When Palnatoki came and seized this haven 
and threw a wall around it," said Sigvald, " the 
land was waste for miles and miles. Not a 
^nan lived in marsh and wood, for this haven 
had been for ages the haunt and lair of all the 
Vikings of the Baltic side. None left the burg 
because in all the country round there was 
not a soul to be seen. But here the old saw 
"las come to be true, ^ Set a thief to catch a thief.^ 


. I Now that Jomsburg is a place of strength, 
both to Burislaf and ourselves, his people have 
huilt them houses, and broken up the woods and 
marshes into farms and homesteads. They sleep 
peacefully under the shadow of these walls, for 
what Viking band, or what King in all the 
North would dare to harry or lay waste those 
whom we shield with our arms. That, Beorn, 
is why we have, not broken, but relaxed the 
law. A leather thong may stretch and be as 
good as ever again, but break it and its use is 
gone for ever, and so it is with the law. Palna- 
toki suflfered no one to go out of the Castle for 
more than three nights, for if any man was to 
be found near us he was an enemy ; now the 
land is filled with the smiUng faces of our friends, 
to whom we sell our wheat and meal and thralls 
and all our fair female slaves. No harm can 
come of visiting those who owe so much to us. 

"Break the law in one thing," said Beorn, 

*'and you break it in all;" and then looking 

sternly at Sigvald, he said, " Next we shall have 

women in the burg, and Captains married/' 

And why not 1 " asked Thorkell. 

Why not," repeated Beorn; "with that 

c 2 




question goes another of our laws. When we 
take to asking why women should not be in 
Jomsburg, and why Captains should not be 
married, I foresee the ruin of Jomsburg. 

" Was not Palnatoki married himself ? " asked 
Sigvald ^^and were not you married in your 
own country, Beorn the Welshman ? '^ 

" It is true," said Beorn, " that my foster- 
brother Palnatoki, our founder, was married. 
Here is Vagn, his lawful grandchild, to prove 
that, but Palnatoki had no wife when he 
founded Jomsburg ; and as for mine, she was 
dead and gone in Wales, even before he and I 
mingled our blood, and passed under the sod of 
turf, and became foster-brothers. What I said 
before, I say still. No Viking, Captain or com- 
mon man should be married. Marriage is the 
root of all evil in the band ; and when wives 
come into the burg at one gate our glory will 
depart from us at the other." 

As the old Viking was so stubborn, neither 
Sigvald nor Thorkell cared to stay any longer 
to continue the discussion, but left Vagn and 
Beorn to themselves. 

As they parted, Sigvald said to Beorn, " You 


y^Va be iu your seat in the hall this eyening, 
messmate^ I have news which I wish to share 
with all the Captains of the band/^ 

"News," said Beorn* *^No news is good 
news," says the old saw. " If it were an autumn 
cruise to England to harry Etlielred's land, it 
would be another thing ; or to Norway against 
Earl Hacon, or even to Denmark against my old 
comrade Sweyn, the son of the seamstress, that 
would be news indeed ; news such as we had in 
olden days ; but this news, I'll bet my best broad 
axe, will be only some soft words from Burislaf, 
whose messenger, as I told you, has been in the 
burg, and, like a leaky pot, has already let fall the 
purport of his message, and that is, our Captain 
Sigvald thinks of breaking the law and taking 
to him a wife." 

" Tell me, foster-brother," said Vagn, " how 
the vessel came to leak ; how did you crack it 
and make it yield its liquor V 

'* Not as I would have wished," said Beorn, 
**by giving him a knock on his shaven pate. 
I hate these monks, whom Burislaf sends 
always telling what they call their beads, always 
pattering their paternosters ; if they sing, singing 



doleful strains ; quite unlike Einar Scaleclang, 
or Gunnlaug Snaketongue, How Egill, the son 
Grim-Baldpate, would laughed at their 
music. And then that choking stuff which they 
call incense'' 

How much longer Beorn would have gone on 
in this abuse of monks, no one can tell, had not 
Vagn checked him by asking : 

"But the message, the news, foster-father? 
How did you get the mead out of the flask if 
you did not crack it by a blow ? " 

"By pouring in the mead itself. That fine 
strong English mead which you and I got as part 
of our spoil when last summer we threw in our lot 
with Olaf Tryggvi's son, and harried Sussex, 
while Ethelred the unready fled before us.'' 

"I have heard," said Vagn, "that monks 
drink no ale or wine. How then did Burislaf 's 
priest drink mead 1" 

" You had better ask him that question when 
3^ou next see him in the Captain's hall," said 
Beorn ; " I can only tell you what he told me 
before he departed, ' Mead,' he said, * was not 
ale, and it was not wine. Both these he was 
forbidden to drink, but mead he was not,* 


^nd then he sate him down and drank stoup 
after stoup of the rich amber drink, and the end 
was that it took hold of him, and he spoke, and 
he told me that Burislaf's message to the 
Captain was, that if Sigvald would come and see 
him, they would see whether he should have 
Astrida to wife/' 

" The Captain has a quick eye for beauty," 
said Vagn, '^ for if fame speaks truth, Astrida 
is by far the fairest of all King Burislaf 's 
daughters. But Sigvald must have first asked 
for her hand, if Burislaf has sent that answer. 
Who bore the offer to the King ; a bird of the 
air or a fish of the sea ? '^ 

"Not so," said Beorn, bitterly, "but a worm 
of the earth. Another of these monks whom 
Otho the Emperor sent to Sigvald a while ago. 
Don^t you mind his in-coming and out-going ? ^' 

"Yes,'' said Vagn, "but I thought the 
Emperor sent him to say that it would be good 
for Sigvald's soul if he and all the band were 
turned into Christians, and forswore the old 
faith, if any of them still clung to it." 

"True enough, boy," said Beorn, "and the 
'<]!aptain said he thanked the Emperor much for 


the care be took of the souls of the company^, 
but that he and they trusted rather in their own 
good swords and stout ships and stalwart arms, 
than in anything else. We had most of* us- 
shaken off the fetters of the old faith, and were- 
not so anxious to be fettered anew ; and so the^ 
shaveling shook the dust oflF his feet, as he called, 
it, and went on his way, telling his beads, and 
singing his doleful ditties ; but for all that he- 
bore a message to Burislaf, and it was that 
Sigvald would be willing to wed his daughter. 



Now we are in the Vikings' hall, a long 
building, with a high pitched roof, and lighted, 
along each side with a row of slits, too narrow 
for entrance, and too high to be reached very 
easily from the ground. At the end of each 
side of the building was a door, the gable ends 
being blank, and without door or window, and 
these two narrow doors were the only means of 
entrance or exit. Inside each door was another 
gate, or rather grate, through which an incomer 
had to make his way. After he had got so far,. 
he turned right or left into the spacious hall. 
In the middle, in the winter time, blazed great, 
fires of huge logs, the smoke from which made 
its way out of louvres at the top of the roof.. 
All along the hall, on either side, ran a row of 
benches, and in the middle, on each side, were, 
two high-seats, one for the Captain, and over 


against him that for his lieutenant, or second in 
command. On either side of the Captain sat 
the bravest and oldest of the band, their seats 
varying in dignity as they approached the doors 
on each side. This was the order on the 
Captain's or chief side, and the same prece- 
dence was observed on the opposite benches. The 
benches were not so far apart on either side 
that everything said or done could not be seen 
or heard by those who sat over against them. 
When meat was served, shifting tables, formed 
of boards supported on trestles, were borne 
in, and when the rude meal was over the 
thralls bore them away, and serious drinking, 
which was the business of the evening, began. 
Then it was that the Chief, rising in his seat, 
and holding out his horn of ale or mead, 
solemnly pledged the lieutenant opposite to him, 
•draining the horn. The Lieutenant then rose 
in his turn, and pledged the Captain, whose 
•example was followed by the Chief on his right 
hand, who pledged him that sate on the Lieu- 
tenant's right. Next in order came the sitter 
on the King's left hand, who went through the 
same toast with the sitter on the Lieutenant's 


left, and so the horn passed on, going across 
the hall from right to left, till every man had 
pledged him that sate opposite to him. It is 
curious that this very order of drinking healths 
in the loving-cup is still retained in civic feasts 
in England, with the addition, unknown to the 
earliest times, that the guests on either side of 
him that drinks the toast rise, as he drains the 
bowl, that they may guard his throat against 
treachery as he drinks. 

As we enter the Vikings' hall, which was 
arranged generally in the same way as every hall 
royal or simple in those days, the tables have 
been removed, and the toasts and pledges are in 
progress, when the festivities are interrupted by 
a thrall, who played the part of master of the 
ceremonies, who passed up the middle of the 
hall and, standing before the Captain, called out 
in a loud voice — 

*' A messenger from King Burislaf 

*' He is welcome,'' said Sigvald. " We are ready 
to hear his message ; after that, let him have an 
honourable seat and drink his fill." 

In strode the messenger, clad in a dark blue 
Idrtle, red breeks, brown woollen hose, and 


high shoes with long laces which were wound 
crosswise high up the legs below the knee. Iiv 
his hand he bore an axe with a long haft, not un- 
like the medieval halbert, and at his side he was 
girt with a short sword. 

Bending before Sigvald he said : 

*'I bear a message from King Burislaf, 
Captain. Wilt thou hear it now ? " 

" It is never too soon to listen to the words of 
a friend," said Sigvald; *' utter your message at 
once, and let us all hear it." 

*' King Burislaf bids you welcome,*' said the 
messenger, "and asks you to come to him* 
speedily to see him, that he may take counsel 
with you." 

" It is well," said Sigvald. " We will consider of 
it and give you an answer* Meantime tell us- 
your name, and say where you parted from the 

" My name," said the messenger, " is Gangrel 
Speedifoot, and I have come hither in one day 
from Stargard, where I left King Burislaf in his. 

"Speedifoot in truth," said Sigvald, "King 
Burislafs messengers do not let the grass- 


grow under their feet ; forty miles and more is 
well run in a day. And now Beorn the Welsh- 
man make room for Gangrel Speedifoot between 
you and your foster-child Vagn ; make him 
merry to-night, and see that he is not stinted in 
mead. To-morrow morning he shall bear our 
answer to King Burislaf " 

Again the messenger bowed low before the 
Oaptain, and then turning away took his seat 
between Beorn and Vagn. 

*' Tis ill jesting, they say, with a thirsty man,'* 
-said the old Viking, " but I know 'tis just as ill 
to talk with him till he has quenched his thirst." 

As he said this he held out to him a huge 
liorn full of mantling English mead, and wished 
him a good errand and a safe return to King 

Slowly the messenger raised the horn to his 
dips, holding it out at arm's length, and throwing 
>back his head as he drank. 

As he did this, Beorn said to Vagn : 

" See how deftly he drains it without spilling 
a drop. 'Tis not the first time he has supped 
mead. See how the tail of the horn goes up 
^and up in the air, for all the world like Thor 

• . ■ 


when he tried to drink the sea dry in thd^^ii of 
Utgard's Loki/' 

At last the outstretched arm dropped, the 
horn sank slowly down, and with a deep breath 
followed by a grunt of satisfaction, Gangrel 
Speedifoot handed back the horn to Beorn, who 
peered into it, and said : 

" Well drunk indeed, Gangrel, and never a 
drop left. Is that the way you Wends always 

" I am no Wend," said the messenger. " If 
I were, my name would be 'Mystislaf,' or 
* Myeckzyslaf,' or some other ' laf ' No ! I come 
from the Low Countries between the Waal and 
Ehine, and as I have just drunk we all drink 

" I might have known that,'' said Beorn, " by 
your name, which means a wanderer, and which, 
here in the North, we should call ' Gangrad ' or 
' Gangler/ The first Gangrel was the great god 
Odin, whom all the North used to believe in. 
Many is the story which tells how he walked over 
this middle-earth shrouded in a loose cloak and a 
broad flapping hat to search into the ways bf.inen. 
And you, too, have seen much in your time and 


passed on your speedy feet through many 

" Have you any more of that rare English 
mead 1 '' asked Gangrel with a chuckle. " How 
it takes hold of a man. My feet already feel it. 
Let me drain another horn, and then I will tell 
you whence I came and whither I have been.'^ 

*'I have always heard that you Flemings 
were great drinkers," said Beorn, " and at home 
in Wales there are some of us mighty over the 
mead and the ale-horn ; but your horn holds 
good measure, and if you drained it all to your 
own share you might not be able to tell your 
story. Besides, our way of drinking is to drink 
half and half with one's neighbour. See the 
horn is cut in half inside by a peg. Half belongs 
to thee and half to me." Then calling out to 
one of the thralls, " here lad, fill up the horn 
again with English mead and bear it to Gangrel 
Speedifoot the King's messenger.'' 

The horn was brought, when Beorn took it 
and said : 

" I will teach thee how to drink in Viking 

Then he slowly raised the tail of the horn in 


air as Gangrel had done ; but when it was half 
up he suddenly checked his hand and threw 
down the horn with a sudden jerk, which made 
the mead foam half way down the horn, but 
without spilling a drop. 

" There ! '' said Beorn ; " that's how we drink. 
But maybe you will think it not worth while to 
drain the little drop that is left, though it is at 
least a quart after our measure.^' 

" Two things I have learned on my travels," 
said the messenger, " one, to be content with the 
half when I cannot get the whole ; the other, to 
do as the folk do with whom I happen to be. 
At home we should think it a scurvy thing to 
drink half a horn of mead. Our horns are always 
filled to the brim, and we drain them to the 
last drop. Here you pledge each other half and 
half, and it is not a bad custom if one gets halves 
enough to make up many wholes. But I have 
been worse off than this, for when I was in 
Byzance, which you Northmen call Mickle-garth, 

the town of towns, I have been with folk who 
never touched one drop of wine or ale or mead,, 
and yet said they did very well without 


^* And what, then, did they drink at their feasts 
and over the fire at Yule/' asked Beorn. 

"In those lands," said Gangrel Speedifoot, 
*' there is no Yule and no fires, and what that 
folk drink is what we never see at our feasts 
— either here or in Flanders — water." 


" Water,^' groaned out Beorn ; " water ! Here, 
boy, fill up this horn again with mead. Gangrel 
Speedifoot, say that over again ! Travellers like 
you see many strange things and tell many 
strange stories ; but who ever heard of water at 
a feast ? '' 

" It is as I said," said Gangrel ; " believe it 
or not, as you choose. When I was among the 
Varangians, in the Great Emperor's service, we 
went east to a land between two mighty rivers, 
and there the folk believed in a prophet, and 
drank no wine or ale or mead ; and if one went 
into their tents and asked for a drink they gave 
you water in an earthen vessel." 

" It is many years," said Beorn, sententiously, 
" since I had a drop of water in my mouth, ex- 
cept it was river-water or sea-water when a 
wave broke over my ship, and then, so help me 
both Odin and the white Christian God, and 

VOL. I. 


all the gods of all the creeds, I always spat it 
out again. How can these folk fight or sing or 
live at all if their blood is not stirred by ale or 
mead ? " 

" They not only sing and live and fight," said 
Gangrel, " but they do all three well. Many and 
many of your Northern Varangians have bitten 
the dust after a flight of their bitter arrows. 
Never saw I such bowmen as those water- 
drinkers, or such lithe sinewy men." 

" And all on water," muttered Beorn. " Well ! 
well ! the water in those lands must be stronger 
than the rivers and streams in these northern 
lands. Maybe the sun shining on it all the year 
round puts life and spirit into it. But not here 
— not in Wales nor in Flanders could men live 
on water alone." 

" The birds and beasts and fish and monks 
do," said Gangrel. 

" Ay ! ay 1 " said Beorn, " but man, a real 
man, I mean, is, thank all the gods, not a bird or 
a beast or a fish or a monk. That's just what 
I say. What does a man live for but to fight ? 
When he dies, our old faith says, he will go on 
fighting all day, and feasting and drinking in 


Valhalla for ever at night 3Ionks do not 
fight, they pray both here and hereafter, but a 
real man must drink strong drink. Xow, lad ! 
why so slow in filling up that horn 1 " 

The horn came, the old toper drank his 
share, and Oaugrel finished it with a smack of 
his lips. 

*' Now, Beom,'' he said, " I have told you of 
the land where there is no Yule and no snow, 
and where the folk Uve and fight well on naught 
but water. You drain your horn like a man, but 
you have done much beside drink in your life.^' 

" Why ask for an old story ? " broke in 
Vagn, who up to this time had sat still and 
listened. "All the world knows that for forty 
years at least Beorn the Welshman has fed the 
ravens, the yellow-footed kites, and the grey 

"True as steel, I daresay,^' said Gangrel 
Speedifoot ; " that is, true of all the northern 
world, but the world has other parts, and for 
many years I have been away from it, and have 
not heard of Beorn's brave deeds.'^ 

" Would you like another half horn 1 '' asked 
Beorn. '* I find it helps the memory. Perhaps, 

D 2 


then, I might tell you one bit of my life. Kc| 
out of boasting, but as something in which 
shared, though the chief glory was with m^ 
foster-brother, Palnatoki, the founder of thi» 
gallant company/' \ 

" 'Tis never too late or too early for good 1 
drink," said Gangrel; "though I have beea \ 
among the water-drinkers and did as they did, i 
because I could not help it, I am ever ready 1 
for a horn of stinging ale or mead, and it is all I 
the better if it clears the throat for a good story 1 
which deserves to live for ever. So up with the 1 
horn and out with the story ; the night is still 1 
young, and the fires blaze fiercely, and all round * 
the hall runs wassail and song, man pledging 
man, and cheering his neighbour. Yes, yes, by 
all the gods, save those of the water-drinkers, 
another horn of mead !" 

The mead came and was soon despatched. 
Then Beorn cleared his throat, and said : 

" You have heard of King Harold Bluetooth, 
the father of King Sweyn, the son of the 
seamstress, the King of Denmark that now is 1 " 

" I have heard of him in my youth, before I 
left your land for the East," said Gangrel ; " but 


what he did and how he died is more than I can 

" Then hear how he died and how we ; drank 
his funeral ale ; as for his life, he was a bad, un- 
just king, and the less said of him the better. 
At the end of his days he had one son left, 
Sweyn, the son of the seamstress, whom Palna- 
toki fostered and brought up. It so happened 
that King Harold would never own him to be 
his son, though all the world knew it as plain as 
day, and the end of it was that from words that 
father and son fell to blows, and Palnatoki of 
course sided with his foster-child. It also hap- 
pened that Palnatoki had to go west one 
summer to see after a little kingdom which he 
had won in Wales. There it was that I became 
his foster-brother ; but of that I will say naught. 
While Palnatoki was away. King Harold got 
the better of his son, and at last caught him in 
a cleft stick, that is, he shut him up with his 
ships in an inlet like this of ours before we built 
the castle ; and more than that, he was strong 
enough to land with a band of his men on either 
side of the inlet while his ships lay in a double 
Une across the haven's mouth. Do you c^xynj 


it ia your head, or is the mead too strong for 
you ? '' 

" I carry it all in my head just as well as I 
carry the mead/' was the reply. 

"Very well," said Beorn. "Then I go on 
to say that on the very night that all this hap- 
pened, Sweyn's good luck, or the will of the gods, 
brought Pfilnatoki back from Wales, and we 
pulled up in the dark to a little bay not a mile 
from where the two fleets lay. Though they 
knew nothing of us, we had heard from some 
fishermen in the, Sound that the King and 
Sweyn were at loggerheads on the Swedish 
shore. So being forewarned we were fore- 
armed, and Palnatoki soon found out that 
Sweyn was hemmed* in, and that between him 
and his foster-child lay King Harold and his 

" As soon as our ship was safely moored, he 
said to me, * Foster-brother, hast thou a mind 
to land with me to see how the land lies. If 
Sweyn is to be saved at all, he must be 
saved to-night. To-morrow it will be too 
late ! ' 

" * How he is to be saved to-night, when it is 


too dark to fight, I cannot see/ I said ; * but if 
you like, we will land/ 

" So we landed, taking with us our axes and 
shields, and Palnatoki, who was the best 
bowman in the North, worth a hundred of your 
water-drinkers, had his bow and arrows. Well, 
we had not gone^ more than a mile across the 
wooded hill that skirted the shore, when we 
fiaw among the trees a great fire of logs, and 
men standing and sitting round it, for it was 
already past the first winter-night, and the 
weather was cold. 

" * These be some of the King's men, foster- 
brother,' said Palnatoki ; ' let us go closer to 
. them.' 

" So we crept up to them among the trees. It 
was an easy task ; they could not see us, but 
they stood out clear to us before the fire, and as 
for hearing us, the wind blew and the flames 
crackled and roared so that we could have stolen 
close up to them unawares. But we had no need 
to do so. When we were half a bow-shot, it may 
be, oflf, my foster-brother whispered to me : 

" ' This is a royal hunt indeed ! It is the King 
himself I ' 


" Yes ! it was the King : there he stood, with 
a steel cap on his head, round which was a fillet 
of gold, and a-top of it a golden boar ; and just 
then he turned his face towards us, lifted up 
the lappets of his mantle, and warmed himself 
over the blazing logs. 

" ' This is how I save Sweyn,' said Palnatoki, 
as he fitted an arrow to his bowstring. In 
another moment loud sang the string as the 
arrow sped on its way, and in another down 
fell King Harold, stricken dead by the great 
marksman. There among the blazing logs he 
lay sprawling, while his chiefs swarmed round 
him ; but it was all no good. King Harold 
Bluetooth lay dead, slain by an arrow, and none 
could tell who had launched the shaft. 

"As for us, we two turned and went back 
to our ships. 

" ' I knew,^ said Palnatoki, ' that something 
was in the wind, my nose itched so as we 
went along. But not a word, foster-brother, 
of this to any one. Sweyn is saved. I will 
send word to-night to him to try to break out 
of the inlet to-morrow morning at early dawn, 
while we row up and attack the King's men 


in the rear. Then it will be they, and not 
Sweyn, who will find themselves in a cleft 
stick, and we will not let them out of it until 
the whole host has acknowledged my foster- 
child as lawful King of Denmark/ 

" To make a long story short,'' said Beorn^ 
''the King's host were thrown into confusion 
and dismay by his sudden death, and next 
morning, with little or no bloodshed, Denmark 
had a young king, the King Sweyn that now is, 
instead of the old King Harold Bluetooth. 
That is the first fitte of my story, and if you 
wish to hear the rest, say the word and we'll 
drain another horn of mead before we finish 

"With all my heart," said Gangrel Speedi- 
foot ; " I like the story almost as well as I like 
the mead." 

"Ho! boy!" bawled Beorn, "another horn 
of mead for King Burislaf 's messenger." 

KING Harold's burial ale. 

After that last horn Beorn took breath 
and went on. 

"As soon as Sweyn was jBrmly set up as 
King, Pahiatoki went back to his kingdom in 
Wales, and left his son, this Vagn's father 
here, to manage his estates in Denmark, which 
he had got back with the new King. I do not 
know how it is with you in Flanders, Gangrel, 
but here in the North no man, from the King 
on the throne to the lowest freeman in his 
cottage, is thought to have entered fully on 
his rights, and to have done his sacred duty 
by the dead till he has drunk what we call 
his heir of heirship, or funeral ale, and held a 
high feast in his father's hall in honour of his 

"We have no such custom in Flanders," 
said Gangrel ; " but there we are always drink- 

KING Harold's burial ale. 43 

ing ale in our own honour. In this respect a 
father's death makes no difference ; the son 
takes his land and goods, and drinks ale and 
mead just as before/' 

" Not so with us/' said Beorn. " It makes 
no odds with us whether a father and son have 
been at daggers drawn when they were alive ; 
if within three years the son has not drunk his 
ale of heirship, he is looked on as a ' niddering ' 
and a dastard, and no true son of his father. 
Now, as I have told you, there was no love 
lost between that father and son. Harold 
would have slain Sweyn, and Sweyn Harold ; 
but when Harold was dead, Sweyn could not 
be his lawful heir till he had held that feast. 
That is one of our customs ; and we have 
another too, which no doubt you also have, for 
it runs all the world over. I daresay your 
water-drinkers have it too. This is what we 
call the blood-feud, and by it Sweyn was 
bound to avenge his father's death on the man 
who had slain him.'' 

" We have that custom," said the Fleming, 
"and the water-drinkers have it too. But if 
Sweyn owed so much to Palnatoki, and was 


his foster-child as well, perhaps he might have 
taken an atonement/' 

" You neither know our customs nor Sweyn's 
nature/' said Beorn ; " but hear my story out. 
All this time, you must know, not a soul but 
Palnatoki and I knew that it was Palnatoki's 
arrow that had slain the King ; at least, we 
thought no one knew it. But for all that, when 
Palnatoki was safe away west in Wales he did 
not seem so eager to return to Denmark to be 
present at that funeral ale. Three times in 
three following years did King Sweyn send and 
bid him to the feast, and once did Palnatoki say 
that he was ill, and could not come, and once 
that his father-in-law had died, and therefore 
he could not come. As the King could not, or 
would not, hold the feast without his foster- 
father, he put it off twice ; but he was angry at 
it, and so, when the third year came, he sent 
so hot a message that Palnatoki made up his 
mind to go, and said he would not fail to be in 
the King's hall at Slesvig by a certain day in 
autumn. Well, as I said before, to make a 
long story short, we launched three brave ships, 
manned by one hundred men, and though the 

KING Harold's burial ale. 45 

way was long and the weather bad, we reached 
our haven the very day that the feast was to 
be held. Whether it were chance, or whether 
this was Palnatoki's purpose I cannot say, but 
so it was ; we did not reach the Slei till it 
was well-nigh dark. Then we laid up our 
ships close to the shore in deep water, and 
we turned their prows out to the sea, and we 
laid the oars ready in the rowlocks, and we 
left a man or two to mind them. Some of us 
thought all this odd, but I did not, for I was in 
the secret and knew what was passing in my 
foster-brother's mind. All the rest obeyed and 
said nothing, as true sailors ought. 

"Well, our haven was close to the King's 
hall, but it was so near a thing, that when we 
got into the hall the King and his men were 
all hard at drink ; still so sure was he that we 
would come that he had kept seats on the 
bench over against him for one hundred men. 
Right glad was he to see us, and many were 
the greetings that passed between him and his 
foster-father. So there we sat and drank and 
were merry, and never had there been such an 
ale of heirship in Denmark before, no, not even 


for Gorm the Old, when he and Queen Thyra 
died. But it was not to end well, for you 
must know that Palnatoki had a brother named 
Feolner, who had ever been against him, and 
who had been King Haro.ld's counsellor. There 
was no love lost between him and Palnatoki,. 
and we all thought it a bad sign when we saw 
that he was in high favour with King Sweyn, 
and sat next him at the feast. 

" At last, just when the mirth and revelry 
were at their height, and the ale and mead 
began to speak in men, Feolner leant back and 
said something in the King's ear, and all at 
once he grew as red as blood, and seemed to 
swell all over with rage. Then up rose a man, 
one of the King's candlebearers, and stood 
before the King, and Feolner handed him an 
arrow on which a golden thread was twisted in 
the feathering, and said out loud, so that all 
could hear — 

"'Bear this arrow round the hall, and ask 
every man if he knows it again and owns to it.^ 

" So round the hall went Arnm*od — that was 
the candlebearer's name — all along the benches 
on the King's side, asking each man if he 

KING Harold's burial ale. 47 

knew the arrow, and none owned it. Then he 
crossed the hall and came over to our side 
of the hall, where our men sate on the outer 
bench, but none owned it ; and at last he came 
to Palnatoki in his turn, 

" * Knowest thou this arrow ? ' he said, as he 
stood before him. 

" * Why should I not know my own shaft 1 ' 
answers Palnatoki. * Hand it over, for it be- 
longs to me.' 

" All this while there was dead silence in the 
hall, for men were all listening to hear if any 
man would own the arrow. 

" But as soon as the King heard what Palna- 
toki said, he called out — 

" * Palnatoki, where was it that thou partedst 
from this arrow last ? ' 

" ' Often have I done your bidding, foster-child 
mine,' answered Palnatoki ; ' and now, if you 
think your glory will be any the greater by my 
answering outright before all this great com- 
pany rather than before a few, still I am ready 
to do your bidding. Know then, King ! that 
I parted with it from my bowstring when I shot 
your father, King Harold ; so that my shaft 


went in at his midrif and came out at bis 

" ' Up, men ! ' roared out the King ; ^ up, and 
seize Palnatoki and his comrades, and slay them 
all, for now there is an end of all friendship 
between me and Palnatoki, and of all the love 
that was between us/ 

" At this there was a hum of voices and a 
•crash of arms throughout the hall, and men 
sprung up on all sides of us, and up we rose 
too, as you may trow, with our arms in our 
hands ; but Palnatoki was the readiest of all of 
us, for in a trice he had his sword drawn, and 
made a dash at his kinsman Feolner and cleft 
him at one stroke down to the chine. But 
even then he had many old friends in the hall, 
and Feolner few, and none bore weapon on us 
as we made for the hall-door, all of us except 
one Welshman of our band ; for we were half 
Northmen and half from Wales. When we 
got out safe and sound we found he was missing." 

Here Beorn made a pause, as though he 
would have stopped ; but Vagn said to Gangrel, 
*^ Make him tell his tale out ; there is more to 

KING Harold's burial ale. 49 

" Tell on," said the Fleming. 
" Well, if a man must praise himself he must," 
said Beom. " Know then, that when we got out, 
and missed our Welshman, Palnatoki said such 
a loss was to be looked for, and it was no use 
going back to seek for him, and was all for 
going down at once to our ships, but I with- 
stood him, and said : 

" ' Thou wouldst not run so from one of thine 
own men, nor will I.' And so I turned back 
into the hall to look for him ; but when I got 
inside there they were tossing him about on the 
points of their spears, and had almost torn him 
to pieces ; but by good luck I got hold of him 
and flung him over my back and ran out with 
him and the King's men after me, and then we 
all rushed down to the ships." 

" Bravely done indeed,^' said Gangrel ; " but 
was he quite dead 1 '' 

"Dead as Balder,'' said Beom, "after the 
mistletoe went through him, or as Harold after 
Palnatoki's shaft. But I bore his body down 
to the shore, and then we got on shipboard and 
fell to our oars long before Sweyn's men could 
launch a ship. It was pitch dark, but the sea 

VOL. I. * 


was smootli as glass, and so our three war-snakes 
cut the waters, and in much less time than 
we had taken to come we were safe back in 
Wales. And that was how Palnatoki owned his 
arrow, and how King Sweyn kept his father's 
funeral ale/' 

" And how you stood by your Welshman and 
carried him off; all these are feats which will 
be told and talked of in the North so long as 
the world lasts/' 

" I do not know that,'' said the old Viking ; 
"but that's how those things happened, and 
that's how the blood-feud arose between Kin"; 
Sweyn and Palnatoki/' 

"It was after that he built Jomsburg; this 
castle that we are now in ?'' asked the Fleming. 

" It was," said Beorn. " You see in some 
things Palnatoki was the unluckiest of men. 
So long as King Harold was alive he was 
an outlaw, because he stood by Sweyn, the 
seamstress's son, and after he had raised 
Sweyn to the throne by that happy shot, in 
stepped the blood-feud, and made him just as 
great an outlaw to Harold's son. But in one thing 
Sweyn was good ; he did not confiscate Pal- 

KING Harold's burial ale. 51 

natoki^s goods in Fiinen, but let Aki Vagn's 
father have the keeping of them, and they will be- 
long some day or other to my foster-child, just 
as Strut-Harold's earldom in Scania will belong 
one fine day to our captain Sigvald, and Born- 
holm will belong to Bui the Stout yonder when 
the gods take his father Veseti to themselves/' 

" Why, you are all elder sons,'' said Gangrel, 
" waiting, like Sweyn, to drink his own father's 
funeral ale. But you, at least, Beorn, are too 
old to have a father alive. You must long ago 
have come into your inheritance. How fares it 
with your kingdom in the West 1 " 

" Much as it fares with all the kingdoms of 
the West," said Beorn ; " one day smiling, one 
day waste. As for me, I left ray lands to my 
kinsmen when I threw in my lot with Paluatoki 
and came here. Some day or other I may re- 
turn, but as yet I have never been homesick ; 
and besides, Palnatoki on his deathbed left me 
his grandchild Vagn to take care of. He is 
already equal to any of our bind, but the day 
will come when no one in the North will dare 
to stand before him." 

" But see, Gangrel," he went on, " the fires 

E 2 


bum low, the captain rises, and Bui and Thor- 
kell follow his example. There is but time for 
one more horn of mead before we lie down to 
sleep. Boy ! boy ! another horn for Gangrel 
Speedifoot. Dear me, how dry telling these 
long stories makes a man feel in the throat.'' 

" Could you drink water now if you were 
with the water-drinkers ?" said Gangrel. 

" I will wait till I get to their country,'' an- 
swered Beorn ; " till then I will make shift ta 
stay my thirst with English mead." 

Then the pair drained their last horn, and 
followed the rest of the Vikings out of the hall 
to the log cabins, in which they slept by twos 
and threes. 

As Sigvald left the hall he said to Gangrel 
Speedifoot : 

" To-morrow at the morning meal,*when the 
sun has risen as high as half the shaft of this^ 
spear above the Griffonberg yonder, you shall 
have our answer to King Burislaf." 




Though not very early in going to bed, the 
Vikings were early risers. In the summer they 
rose hours before they had their breakfast, and 
evidently had no rules as to the harm of fasting 
and working on an empty stomach. At the par- 
ticular time of the year of which we write — 
September — they rose at five, but they had no 
food till nine, and it was just at that time that 
the sun was. half the height of Sigvald's spear 
above the low hill called the Griffonberg, as he 
held it straight before him at arm's length and 
measured the sun's lower limb by a rude sort 
of trigonometry. 

There were but two meals in the day in those 
times in the North — day-meal, or breakfast, and 
night-meal, or supper ; the first at nine a.m. and 
the other at the same hour at night, so that 


there were about twelve hours between each. 
Of these, more was eaten at breakfast and more 
drunk at supper. The porridge and joints were 
heavy at both, and ale and mead flowed with- 
out stint ; but still, as we have said, much mora 
was eaten at the first, and after draining a horn 
or two men went about their business and their 
work, while at supper work was over for the day, 
and the band sat drinking over the fires, as we 
have said, till far on in the night. 

At breakfast, therefore, on that September 
morning, Gangrel Speedifoot again met Sigvald, 
and again was handed over to the care of his 
messmate Beorn. 

" Well, Gangrel, hast thou slept sound after 
that stinging English mead ? It was all needed 
to wash down Beorn's long stories. And your 
appetite, has it failed you, or wilt thou try your 
teeth on this wild boar T 

"I have slept well,*' answered Gangrel. 
" The mead did not rob me of my rest, and 
Beorn's stories, though long, were some of the 
best I have ever heard.'' 

"Ah !" said SigVald, "they are fresh to you ;. 
you have never heard them before." 


"Deeds like those of Palnatoki are ever 
fresh/' said Gangrel. "You will have hard 
work to achieve greater things/' 

"Say you so/' cried Sigvald. "Well, well, 
Palnatoki was a gallant captain, but perhaps 
ere we bite the dust I and my brother Thorkell, 
and Bui, and Vagn, and even old Beorn himself, 
may do something which shall even ecHpse his 

" Would that it might be so," said the mes- 
senger ; " but the sun is already more than half 
shaft high. I have eaten my fill, the way is long, 
the day short, and I shall have to run more swiftly 
than I ran yesterday if I am to reach Stargard 
to-night. What is your answer to King Burislaf, 
my master ?" 

" Tell your master," said the captain, " that 
three nights from this I will sup with him 
in his hall at Stargard with fifty of my 

" A good message makes a merry messenger/' 
said Gangrel Speedifoot, with a bow to Sigvald. 
" Thanks for making my errand hither lucky. 
Thanks to thee, Beorn, and to thee, Vagn, and 
thanks, last of all, to this gallant company. 


Jomsburg lacks naught that I can see save the 
presence of women." 

" Perhaps we may mend that want even yet/' 
said Sigvald, as Gangrel Speedifoot passed out 
of the hall, and was soon beyond the walls on 
his way to King Burislaf. 

Though none of the band, save Beorn, had got 
an inkling of what Burislaf s message meant, and 
even he had only half guessed the truth, Sigvald 
and his brother well knew its purport. It was 
quite true, as Beorn had said, that Sigvald was 
sick of a single life, and as true that he had 
turned his eyes on one of King Burislafs 
daughters. That he was in love with a woman 
whom he had never seen was as little likely in 
that age as this. There had been cases in 
Northern tradition like that in which a great king 
had given up his heart at once to a maiden one of 
whose long golden hairs had been dropped by a 
raven at his feet, but these were exceptions. Sig- 
vald, the son and heir of the proud Earl Strut- 
Harold, of Scania, was eager to marry, that he 
might have an heir to succeed him. He had 
not thought of this when, like so many of the 
leaders of the band, he had sailed with his ships 


to join the Vikings, and when he had accepted 
the captainship, and sworn to obey the laws, 
which in this point, at least, he was now ready 
to break. The priest of whom Beorn had spoken 
had sounded Burislaf on the matter, and the 
mission of Gangrel Speedifoot was the result. 
We have heard what the King's messenger 
said. He was willing to see Sigvald with a 
strong escort in his grange near Stargard, but 
he had said nothing of the proposed marriage. 
This exactly suited Sigvald's views, for he could 
not take a wife without the leave of the band, 
and that leave he must get before he started on 
his wooing. 

" So to-morrow there is to be a muster in full 
arms in the open field,'' said Beorn to Vagn. 
"We must all be there. Depend on it the 
Captain has something to say about this visit to 
the King." 

"By this time to-morrow," answered Vagn, 
" we shall know all about it. Meantime, what 
is the use of guessing what it may be 1" 

" Take my word for it, it will be about 
breaking the law and taking a wife," said 


''Well, then," said Vagn, "I for one shall 
vote for it." 

" You vote for it, foster-child ; you ! such a 
boy as you are !'' 

"Who knows," said Vagn, "if the law is 
changed whether I may not carry off and wed 
Thorkell of Leira's daughter, Ingibeorg tho 

" Sets the wind in that quarter still f ' said 
Beorn, with a grunt. " We are all going down 
hill as fast as we can." 

To-morrow came, and with it the grand 
muster of the Vikings on the plain outside the 
walls where so many combats had been fought 
by candidates for admission to the band. As 
the Vikings filed through the narrow gate of the 
burg a mere glance at them would have shown 
why this famous company were the terror of tho 
North, Taking the crews of their three hundred 
ships at the very lowest estimate, they must 
have numbered ten thousand, made up of tho 
squadrons which great chiefs such as Sigvald^ 
Beorn, Thorkell, Bui, and Vagn had brought with 
them. Even under such leaders, all, as we have 
seen, were not indiscriminately admitted. None 


of the rank and file were beyond the Umits of 
age, and none passed muster for entrance who 
was not a picked man. A modern observer 
would have called them, when considered as 
sailors, all A.B/s, and as soldiers all grenadiers. 
On and on they passed on that September 
morning through the gate, armed with axe and 
sword and spear and bow, but, as we have said 
before, with no defensive armour except a shield. 
Those were not the days of uniforms, and yet in 
a certain sense all the Vikings of less mark wore 
a garb more or less alike — a kirtle, breeks, 
and hose of coarse russet woollen, shoes of brown 
tanned leather, and on their heads a low- 
crowned hat, the ancestor of our modern wide- 
awake. A few among the ranks wore a steel 
hat, and a " bymie " or shirt of linked mail ; but 
these were so rare as to be scarcely worth notice. 
Slowly the whole body, marching as one man, 
with a tramp that made the peaty soil shake, 
formed themselves into a hollow square, within 
which stood Sigvald and his chiefs. 

In the midst of the square was an ancient 
cairn of huge stones, the last resting-place, 
before it had been ransacked by the Vikings, of 


some Wendish chief. It was, in fact, precisely 
what is called a cromlech in Wales — that is, the 
cist or sepulchral chamber of a barrow, denuded 
of the earth and gravel which had been piled 
over it to form the tomb. There on the top of 
the horizontal slab the Viking Captains had 
always stood when they wished to address the 
band ; but to the surprise of all, instead of Sig- 
vald, Thorkell now took his place, and began to 
speak in what the chronicler of that day calls 
^' a clever oration.^' 

*^ Vikings of Jomsburg," he said, "we have 
met here to-day that I may tell you something 
which concerns us all. You know all of you 
how long this company has lasted, and won 
fame and fee by the wise laws which our old 
captain Palnatoki framed. These laws have 
made us what we are, and by them we mean to 

Here there was a hum of applause and a 
•crash of arms as each man smote the iron boss 
of his shield with his sword. As the sound died 
away Thorkell went on — 

" We mean to abide in them, I say, so far as 
we can ; but laws grow old like all things else 


on this middle-earth, and what is easy to one^ 
man to bear is a heavy burden to another. 
Palnatoki was an old man when he came hither 
with Beorn the Welshman, whom we all know 
and all admire as one of our boldest. He had 
already done with wife and child. The oak had 
shed its apple on the earth, and borne goodly 
saplings like his grandson Vagn here, the bravest 
and strongest for his years of all our company. 
One head of our laws, therefore, which many of us 
find very hard to bear, was light as a feather to 
Palnatoki. To him the love of woman was a 
thing past and gone. In that he had quenched 
his thirst, and drained his horn to the dregs. 
But it is not so with most of us. How many of 
you are like Freyr the ancient god, in whom 
some of us still believe, when he saw Gar da in 
the grange of Gymir the giant, and was so de- 
voured by love of her that unless he had gotten 
her to wife he had died? How many of us, as wo 
have dashed in our sea-stags through the billows 
of the West, on landing have found among the 
spoil lovely maidens of high birth, and felt 
like Freyr, but, unlike the god, have known 
that we were cut off from them except 


as slaves to sell by laws made by oi 
selves/' '^ 

Here another murmur of applause shovri 
that in that assemblage of youth and vigo4 
there were many who acknowledged the trufcl 
of Thorkell's words. ' 

" I think, therefore," Thorkell went on, " tha^* 
this law as to bringing women and wives inU^ 
the burg, and as to marriage, might be changed ^ \ 
not all at once, but that some of us might, with \ 
the^ Captain's leave and the leave of the company, 
have power to take a wife. It is a wise saying 
of our forefathers which bids us beware of too 
much of a good thing. Thousands, or even 
hundreds, of women in Jomsburg might ruin our 
company, but ten or fifty would not. No doubt 
the Captain has often felt like Freyr, and longed 
for an heir to that earldom in Denmark which 
our father Strut-Harold holds. He is a gallant 
captain, and Jomsburg holds her head as high 
under him as she did in the days of Palnatoki. 
But we can do nothing without the laws of the 
band, and so I ask you to vote that the law 
may be eased on this one point, and that the 
Captain may have leave to marry and bring his 



wife home, and that he may, if he sees fit, allow 
^nj of you who does a deed of ' derring do ' 
to take a wife to himself and bring her home 
if he pleases. And now, before you vote, we 
^e ready to hear what any man has to jsay for 
or against the marriage of the Captain/' 

As the tall Viking jumped down from the slab 
on one side, it was slowly mounted on the other 
by Beorn the Welshman. 

" I am no speaker, like Thorkell GUbtongue, 
as I call him, rather than the Tall ; and the 
Captain, if he wishes the law to be broken, has 
done well to put his brother forward, who can 
say things for the Captain which he could not say 
for himself. It is fine talking to say that the 
Captain is like Freyr, and longs for a wife like 
Oerda of the white arms, but Thorkell forgets 
the price which Freyr paid for Gerda, and how 
he had to give up that good sword to the giant 
which would stand him in good stead at tho 
great day of doom, the Twilight of the Gods. 
That price was too great when weighed against 
the white arms of Gerda, and so this company 
will pay too great a price if women and wives 
come into the burg, in the ruin that will surely 


come as soon as the old laws are broken. It is 
all very well to talk of tens or fifties of women. 
We have all seen how thin a wedge will rend 
asunder an oaken trunk ; so it will be with us. 
To my mind one woman is as bad as a thousand. 
We get on very well as we are without them ; 
why not let well alone." 

At this telling speech of the old Welshman, 
there was again a murmur of applause in the 
ranks, but it was not so loud as that which 
followed Thorkeirs speech. Some shouts were 
heard too of " the Captain, the Captain ; let him 
speak, let him speak." 

Then Sigvald mounted the slab, and there 
arose a roar of voices, and another mighty 
crash of arms, as every man smote his shield 
with redoubled force. 

" I am not so good at speech as my brother 
Thorkell," he said, " who can do all things well — 
sail a ship, smite a foe, sing a song, or make a 
speech. And, though Beorn would have you 
believe that he is no speaker, you have heard 
what he said and how well he spoke it. As for 
me, it is true, as my brother said, that I wish ta 
marry, that Strut-Harold^s enemies may not 


Relieve that his race will die out because his two 
sons have thrown in their lot with you, and are 
bound by the laws not to take to themselves a 
wife. I am not like Freyr, for I have not yet 
jseen my Gerda, and I am not pining myself to 
death, like Freyr, for her sake. I own, though, 
that I have turned my eyes where I know good 
women are to be found, and that is to King 
Burislaf s grange ; but I know not till I see these 
fair maidens whether I shall love them as Frej^r 
did Gerda. But this, at least, I know, that not 
for the sake of any woman will I, like Freyr, 
give up this njy good sword, which has cloven so 
many of the foes of this gallant company to the 


At this utterance there was another roar of 
voices, and another crash of arms, and Sigvald 
went on. 

" There is another thing which the company 
should think over, and that is, though I am 
loath to say it, that times and seasons and men 
change. My father, Strut-Harold, is an old man, 
and before he dies I should wish that he saw 
an heir to his earldom in a son of mine. Were 
he to die, and I be still unwedded, I should give 

VOL. I. rt 


up the captainship and leave the burg, that I 
might drink my father's funeral ale and marry. 
But if the law were changed as to marriage, I 
should stay here and still be Captain, and 
Thorkell, one of the mainstays of the band, 
would stav with me : but if the law abides as it 
is, in a little time we must both go." 

It was easy to see that this too was an arrow 
that went home. There was no one in the band 
who, for birth and bearing, could compare with 
Sigvald. Bui and Vagn, and his brother Thor- 
kell, might be stronger and more daring in fight, 
but Sigvald, besides a strong arm, had a good 
head on his shoulders, and this the band well 
knew, and even Beorn, his great antagonist, had 
to confess it. If Sigvald went, it was as though 
the wit and wisdom of the company departed 
with him. This was clearly shown when the 
next speaker arose to address the crowd. 

" My name is Bui, as you all know, son of 
Veseti of Bornholm. My words are really few, 
and this is what I say. Women and marriage 
in the burg are an evil and a curse, but it would 
be worse far to lose Sigvald. It would be as 
the gods found out when Odin was lost from 


Asgard, and Thor had the rule in his own hands. 
I shall never marry ; my good ship and my two 
chests full of golden spoil are treasures enough 
for me. But what is one man's poison is 
another's meat, and sooner than lose Sigvald 
and Thorkell, let us give them leave to marry 
Hela herself if they please." 

This short speech from one of the opposition 
party, as Bui might be justly called, settled the 
question. Thorkell, who knew the advantage 
of striking while the iron was hot, sprang upon 
the slab and roared out, in words which reached 
every man of the company, " How say ye. 
Vikings of Jomsburg, shall Sigvald, our cap- 
tain, have leave to marry and to allow others to 
marry at his own choice ; yes or no 1 " 

'* Yes ! yes ! " roared the mighty crowd, now 
completely moved and magnetized. " Yes ! yes I 
let him marry as he pleases." And so, with 
another great crash of arms, that question, in 
which Beorn saw the ruin of the company, was 
carried by acclamation. 

T 2 



Now the story goes to the grange of King 
Burislaf, which lay some way outside the town 
of Stargard. The kings of that race, though 
the Wends dwelt much in towns, followed the 
fashion of the German tribes, and lived for the 
most part in the open country, shunning walls in 
which they could be cooped up like mice, and 
preferring to hear the birds sing, and to see the 
green grass grow and the tall trees bud and 
bloom. This grange of King Burislaf was not 
at all palatial. It had an ample hall, which 
stood apart by itself, in which the King sat every 
day and drank and feasted with about a hundred 
retainers of his body-guard. One reason why 
he was anxious to be on good terms with the 
Vikings was, that listening to the exhortations of 
the Emperor Others priests, he had become half, 
if not entirely a Christian. He had been what 


the Northmen called " signed with the cross/* 
or "primsigned/' traces of which practice linger 
still in the English baptismal service in the words, 
" and do sign him with the sign of the cross." 
It was the first step to baptism^ but not baptism 
itself, and those who had received it were ad- 
mitted to social life with Christians, and to a 
portion of their mass. If they died they were 
buried on the outskirts of the churchyards 
where consecrated and unconsecrated earth met ; 
but the service of the church was not read over 
them. While he was in this half and half state 
of religious belief, which well represented the 
shifting character of the time, his subjects, the 
Wends, were for the most part obstinate 
heathen, and if they could have combined 
against Burislaf, would have burnt him and 
sacrificed him to their idols ; but so long as 
harvests were good and the King's Christianity 
was kept in the background, the Wends still 
yielded him a surly obedience, partly for the 
sake of his descent from the old royal race and 
partly from fear lest the Emperor Otho should 
treat them as he had treated the heathen king- 
dom of Denmark in Harold Bluetooth's time, 


and convert them to Christianity by a German 
crusade waged with fire and sword. 

Besides the hall the King's grange consisted 
of a series of separate buildings forming four 
sides of a square, in the centre of which the 
hall itself stood. One of these was a kitchen, 
another stables for horses and kine, over which 
was a long loft in which the King's body-guard 
slept. Another was the Queen's parlour, another 
the King's treasury and counting-house, in which 
he certainly counted out his money when he 
had any, ttough it is doubtful whether the 
Queen ever ate bread and honey in her own 
apartment. Another was the ladies' bower, and 
it is into this that we now usher the reader and 
introduce him at once to King Burislaf, his 
queen, and his three daughters. 

The King was a short, oily-looking man, with 
a sleek, sly expression of face. The kings of 
those days just as little as kings in modern 
times, were in the habit of wearing their state 
clothes on all occasions. Burislaf was, there- 
fore, dressed pretty much like any other Wend 
of rank, in woollen outer garments of finer 
quality, though under his kirtle, instead of linen, 



lie wore a silken shirt, which had come across 
Russia from Byzantium. Kound his brow he 
wore a circlet of gold as a token of his rank, 
and in like manner the Queen and the Princesses 
wore thin fillets of the same metal. 

In these days we fancy that the costume 
♦called " Bloomer '' is a modem invention, but in 
reality it was but a revival of the women's dress 
in the early ages. Their under-clothing was of 
fine linen, a smock fitting close up to the throat, 
-over that they wore a woollen skirt or petticoat, 
which came down just below the knee, under 
that their extremities were clothed in full 
drawers or trousers coming down to the ankle. 
These, with a kirtle or long jacket, woollen 
stockings, and high shoes, made up the women's 
attire of the tenth century. Over all, espe- 
cially when out of doors, both men and women 
wore a cloak, and in the family of Burislaf silk 
seemed so common that all these fair members 
of the royal family wore kirtles of silk. 

We have already described King Burislaf. If 
he upheld his ascendancy at home and re- 
spect abroad, it was not by the strength of his 
arm, but by the goodness of his head. He was 


wily and politic above the princes of the time,, 
and he had been taught this poh'cy by the con- 
tinued struggles he had to keep on good terms 
with the Emperor, to save appearances with his^^ 
heathen people, to keep the Vikings in good 
humour, and, in a word, to make both ends 
meet when both ends were far too fehort. 

The Queen had been a lovely Princess of the 
Kussian race, which then ruled at Novgorod' 
and on the Ladoga, and played so large a part in 
the history of the time. She had been tall and* 
fair, as well as proud and haughty, but twentj^- 
five years of married life with Burislaf had 
played sad havoc with her looks as well as with 
her pride. She was very different from the 
dainty princess who had once refused prince- 
after prince who came a-wooing to Novgo^ 
rod, and all for what? To many Burislaf,. 
whose lineage went up straight to the Wendish 
gods, but who at last, to add to his other- 
troubles, had been reduced to promise to pay 
tribute to the King of Denmark. These humi- 
liations, and the possibility, we might even add 
the probability, that the fanatical Wendisb 
priests might raise a levy of heathens and burn^ 


King Burislaf and the Queen and the Princesses 
in one of their granges, added an excitement 
not attended with dignity to the Queen's 

But the Princesses ! Yes, they were Prin- 
cesses indeed — lovely young things, full of life 
and strength — except one very unlike Burislaf, 
and very like their mother. That was the way 
in which the natural pride of the Queen had 
revenged itself on her husband. She had no 
son, but two of her daughters were as little like 
Burislaf as the Queen was like him. 

Their names ! these Princesses. Astrida was 
the eldest, and wisest, and fairest. Gunnhilda 
was the second, less wise and most like her 
father ; and last of all came Geira, the least 
fair and leastwise of them. The reader need 
not trouble himself with her, as she is out of 
the story — she married King Olaf, the son of 
Tryggvi, and may be heard of in his Saga. 

Just as we enter that bower of the Wendish 
royal family, it is plain that all things have not 
been very smooth. It may help us to understand 
the matter if we say that outside, just in the 
very act of leaving the royal presence, we meet 


Crangrel Speedifoot, who, having run all the way 
from Jomsburg, and havmg arrived late in the 
night when King Burislaf was snoring off his ca- 
rouse, had delayed delivering his message till the 
next morning. So that it happened that at the 
very time that the Vikings were debating at their 
muster whether the Captain should be allowed to 
marry, King Burislaf and his wife and daughters 
were discussing Sigvald, and what answer should 
be given to him when he came in two days to 
ask for the hand of one of the Princesses. 

What the Queen had said we know not. 
Something no doubt to the effect that Burislaf 
had better put the Captain off, for Burislaf in 
answer said : — 

" But suppose he will not be put off ? Sup- 
pose Sigvald gives up the captainship, as Gan- 
,grel Speedifoot believes he will, and the com- 
pany breaks up, where should we be without the 
safeguard which the Vikings are to us against 
foemen from the sea. All these fair fields would 
be ravaged, and we should lose untold sums." 

" But how do you know he will choose any 
one of us ? '' said Gunnhilda. " He may not like 
«s when he sees us." 


" That," said Burislaf, " has never happened 
in our family. One of you he will choose, and 
that one will not be you, Gunnhilda, but 

" She is eldest and wisest, and ought to be 
chosen first/^ said Gunnhilda, rather glad at the 
prospect of getting rid of a suitor she had never 

"Indeed!" said Astrida, "it ill suits my 
temper or my rank to be so given away. Now 
do you think, father, that Sigvald is a fit mate 
to one of our royal race." 


'' His father, Strut-Harold, the earl, thinks no 
small things of himself," said Burislaf; "and by 
^11 accounts Sigvald is equal to his father, at 
least in his own conceit." 

*' Deep-witted you are said to be, father," said 
Astrida, " think of some plan by which you may 
get rid of Sigvald as a suitor, and yet keep him 
in good humour." 

" Spoken after my own heart," said Burislaf. 
^' I am quite content if that can only be done. 
But if I am deep-witted, so are you, Astrida, 
and besides you have quite as much at stake in 
this as I. If Sigvald comes with fifty men at 


his back, and his choice falls on you, what 
answer shall be given him which will neither 
enrage him, nor wed you to a man of unequal 
birth ? Think over some plan, and teH me by 
to-morrow at this time." 

So saying, King Burislaf, with the look of a 
man sorely puzzled, left the Queen and Prin- 
cesses to themselves, and went oflF to see some 
hedging and ditching which his thralls had done 
for him during the morning. 

But he had scarce gone a hundred yards, 
when he and those of his body-guard whom he 
had called to go with him on his round, saw a 
band of men on horseback riding full up to the 
Grange, which he had just left. 

" These men have come far,'* said the King. 
" Their horses are jaded, and they themselves 
travel- worn. Let us turn to meet them ; may 
be they bring a message to me." 

" They be Danes," said the King's chief hunts-- 
man. " I know them by the golden boar which 
their leader wears on his steel cap.** 

When the horsemen met the footmen King 
Burislaf bade them welcome, and asked the 


" Our welcome would be a welcome indeed, 
^ing Burislaf/' said the warrior who led the 
band, "were we free to take it. We have 
ridden far, and need rest and food ; but King 
Sweyn, my master, bade us not tarry a moment 
after we had reached your dwelling, but to tell 
you his message, and to turn back." 

" We are not so courtly, nor perhaps so great 
^ king as King Sweyn, but never has this hap- 
pened to us that any man who bore a message, 
least of all if it be one from a king, should turn 
^way from our court without tasting food or 
^rink. The bees of the Wends make sweeter 
honey than you can find in your Danish beech- 
woods, and we have better mead, though not 
«uch strong ale as King Sweyn brews at 

" My master. King Sweyn," said the Dane, 
*' forbade us to stay one moment. So soon as 
we had given you our message we were to turn 
bridle and ride back." 

"Before you give it, what may be your 
name 1 " asked the King. " We cannot take a 
message from a nameless man." 

"At home, in Denmark," said the Dane, 


" they call me Sigurd the Champion, and for 
my office, I am head of the King's Guests/' 

" And what may a ^ guest ' be ? " sa^d Buris- 
laf. *^ It seems to be a diflFerent thing in Den- 
mark from our guests, for you are a guest, wha 
will be no guest." 

" The king's guests," said Sigurd, " are fed 
and paid servants of the king ; freemen whom 
he takes into his service as messengers. He 
sends them hither and thither to do his service, 
to bear a message, or do an errand, cut oflf a 
foe, or help a friend. At any time and any 
whither we are bound to go at the king's 

"And Sigurd the Champion," said King 
Burislaf, " what is this message of King Sweyn's 
that will bear such little delay ? " 

" My master. King Sweyn," said Sigurd, 
" bids you pay him the tribute which King 
Harold Bluetooth laid on the Wends in the time 
of your father Myeczyslaf before the last night 
of Yule is out, what we, now that we are all 
Christians in Denmark, call Twelfth Night, and 
should you fail to pay it he will waste your 
kingdom with fire and sword." 


As he uttered these words Sigurd and his 
companions turned bridle and rode oflF, and, 
jaded though their horses were, they were soon 
out of sight. 

"Mount and follow and slay them," cried 
King Burislaf. " Was such a message ever heard ? 
And as for the tribute, though years and years 
ago there was talk of such a thing when our 
father and King Harold were at war, it has 
never been paid, and, by God's help, never 
shaU.'^ ' 

As for pursuing and slaying the bearer of that 
rude message, Burislaf 's chief huntsman and the 
rest of his followers convinced the King that 
his case would not be mended even if he seized 
and slew Sigurd and his companions. In this 
respect the person of a messenger, like that of 
the heralds in later days, was looked on as 

" Your majesty may kill the messenger," said 
the chief huntsman, "but you cannot kill the 
message. Let them go as they come. They 
can bear nothing back to King Sweyn, for they 
would not stay to learn whether you would pay 
the tribute." 


" So Burislaf let them fare back on their long 
journey to King Sweyn, and, instead of looking 
after his thralls' work, went back to the Princesses' 
bower, and told them of this new trouble that 
had come on him." 

" Misfortunes never come singly, father," said 
Astrida ; " and this message of the rude King 
Sweyn only makes it more needful to devise 
some scheme which shall at once put off both 
Sigvald and the King. By to-morrow at this 
time we will all meet here, and each of us bring 
the best counsel we can." 



astrida's good counsel. 

How Burislaf or his Queen or the other Prin- 
cesses passed the night no chronicler has told. 
'No doubt the King caroused with his men, and 
then snored out the night-watches, as was the 
wont of Kings when at peace in those days. 
Perhaps he asked his oldest councillors about 
that mythical tribute, what it was to have been . 
rings of gold, Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, Cufic 
money; so many hawks, so many sables, so many 
horses, so many swords. If so, the answer of 
his chancellor of the exchequer has not been re- 
corded. We may be sure that even if he arrived 
at a clear understanding as to what the tribute 
should be, he went to bed even more deter- 
mined not to pay it than ever. If the worst 
came to the worst, it was a far cry to Stargard . 
King SwQyn might come and take the tribute if 
he chose. By this time the Wendish mead had 

VOL. I. « 


its way, and King Burislaf was sound asleep. In 
his dreams he fancied, so far from paying 
Sweyn a tribute, that he, at the head of the 
Wendish host, had invaded Denmark, slain King 
Sweyn with his own hand, and oflfered him up 
as a spread eagle to Bielbog and the ancient 

By his side lay his once proud and haughty 
Queen, fretting at the thought that any king 
should thus insult the husband of a princess of 
the race of Ruric. 

" At Novgorod," she thought, " foreign princea 
and savage chiefs paid tribute to us, and now 
Burislaf is told he must pay tribute to King 
Sweyn, who but a little while ago was his own 
father's exile and outlaw, and would have been 
glad to find an asylum on our shores." 

How Astrida passed the night the following 
pages will show. She had, as we have seen, both 
the pride of her mother and the wit of her 
father. She was not the woman to pass 
the night in vain hopes or in idle lamenta- 

When the royal family met in the bower next 
day, Astrida was fresh and lively as a bird, while 

astrida's good counsel. ^S 

Burislaf and the Queen were sullen and care- 

" Well, fether," said the Princess, " have you 
thought of a scheme first for Sigvald's answer, 
and next for King Sweyn's tribute ? '^ 

" I have thought of King Sweyn/' said the 
King, " and the end of my thought is that I will 
not pay the tribute. Why, the oldest of my fol- 
lowers cannot tell me even what it was to be. 
Can a king pay a tribute when its very kind is 
unknown to him ? No ! If Sweyn wants the 
tribute he must come and take it.'* 

" That I call no counsel," said Astrida. " If 
that tribute is not paid or met in some way, 
as soon as the paths are open and the waters 
loosed next spring, you may expect King Sweyn 
here, sword in hand." 

" I know of no other plan," said King Buris- 
laf, gloomily. " In old times my ancestors would 
have offered up a hundred or two victims at the 
altars of the gods, and so would most of my 
subjects at the present day ; but we are un- 
behevers, you know, half Christian half heathen. 
We cannot sacrifice to the ancient gods, and we 
are not Christian enough to beUeve what Otho's 

a 2 


mass priests tell us of the power of incense and 

" The best oflFering to any of the gods, heathen 
or Christian/' said Astrida, " comes out of one's 
own head and heart. Good counsel comes to 
man in all creeds if he will but trust in himself, 
and not in idols and vain oblations.'' 

" Very true, no doubt," said Burislaf, with a 
puzzled look. " But tell me first what counsel 
you have to give about Sigvald the Viking, for 
that concerns you most nearly. If he takes any 
of my daughters he will take you, for it is easy 
to see that he will take the best." 

" I have thought it all over," said Astrida, 
^' and, as the saw says, it is good to slay two 
birds with one stone, I have devised a plan 
which may get rid of Sigvald, or, if we cannot 
get rid of him, at least reUeve us of the 

" If you can do that, either or both of them, 
you will do something that quite passes my wit 
to comprehend ; but let us hear what it all 
comes to." 

"WeU, then," said Astrida, "when Sigvald 
comes you must make him and his men merry 

astrida's good counsel. 85 

and welcome, and not spare either ale or mead. 
Your tables must groan with food, and your hall 
be filled with every man you can muster. There 
is still some valour left in the Wends, and your 
body-guard may well compete, atleastinlooks, with 
Sigvald and his Vikings. As for ourselves, we 
may not be so brave as Sigvald, but we shall see 
if we cannot match him in wit. I say outright 
that I have no wish to wed at once. Even a 
princess has many chances, and as yet I have 
not had one. It is quite uncertain whether Sig- 
vald's choice will fall on me ; but whichever it 
falls on of us sisters, this must be your answer, 
and you must utter it like a king of our ancient 
race, and as though you had the whole nation at 
your back. You must say that the daughters 
of King Burislaf are worthy of husbands, better 
born and of higher rank than the captain of a 
band of Vikings, even though he be an earFs 
son. But for all that, as you love and value 
him, and know how brave and how wise he is 
— mind you do not leave that out, father — you 
will not utterly say no. Only, if he wishes to 
have one of us, he must not ween he can have 
us for the mere asking, just as if we were 


i* -- 

Ju i' 


apples that the wind shakes off the tree ^ 
fall into his mouth. No ! The daughters ^^ | 
King Burislaf must be won by adventure ai^^ 
enterprise, and you will lay on him a task an^ 
quest which may seem great to others who ar^ 
not so wise and daring, but which will no doubfc 
be easy to such champions as Sigvald and his 

" And what task shall I lay on him, daugh- 
ter 1 "' said Burislaf. 

"Have patience and you shall hear," said 
Astrida. " You know the way of the Northmen, 
when they have anything to say they do not 
say it outright, Sigvald will linger over his 
ivooing like a cat over a mouse, and all the more 
so as he will take tune to look at us three. Do 
not be in a hurry with him, therefore. Give 
him time, and say nothing of his wooing till he 
mentions it himself ; but when he does speak, 
mind and say all that I have said. And now \ 
for the conditions, which, if he is at all taken 
with any of us, he will be the readier to accept, 
for love, they say, makes all things easy in a 
lover's eyes.'* 

" Yes, yes ! " said Burislaf. " The conditions : 

JL5^E^)A^ G-:* I* o T5:s: 

^1 1 am as impatirat w hear ir^^Rra as sit j^Ti^er 
teijf himself could be." 

"The first ccmdiiion d iLe ifttidL nrssi be,"^ 
saidAstrida, "that be ^aH bk iLe lai»i free 
from all taxes and tr^juies -^LSd: ile Wtiiis 
Diay be called on to j «aT to anj f >rekii ttrig. If 
jou put it in that waj be wi3 tiii it a Egbi 
thing for bim and bis Vikir^gs xo meei socb a 
claim : but do not tell him that Kin^ Swem bas 
claimed tbe tribute. That is the first coniitic^ 
and I am sure be irill jump at it, if be is as wife- 
willing as be is said to be. Tbe second is 
harder, and bow it is to be done even I fail to 
see ; but it all depends on tbe love tbat may 
spring up in bis beart for any of us at first 

" And wbat is that ? ** said Burislaf. 
" This/' said Astrida. " You shall speak of it 
as not at all bard. Far from it ; you must talk 
of it as if it were quite a thing of course to such 
famous warriors and bold sailors as the Vikings 
of Jomsburg, to whom it is well known nothing 
is impossible. Sigvald must bind himself to 
bring King Sweyn hither to us before tbe first 
night of Yule, and to bring bim so that be shall 


be in our power. If he will undertake to da 
that, then he shall hare his choice out of any of 
your daughters ; and do you know, father/' said 
Astrida, '' though I am not so husband-eager as 
Sigvald is said to be, if he can only bring King 
Sweyn hither I shall be quite ready to wed him 

" What a jewel of a daughter/' said Burislaf. 
" My own child, only far more deep-witted. Not 
Bielbog himself, nor Swantevit adored in Rugen, 
who knows all counsel, could have devised a 
better plan. We shall get rid of Sigvald, that I 
see ; but how we are to get rid of Sweyn and 
the tribute, that I do not see quite so plainly." 

" We shall get rid of both, father ; or if we 
only get rid of the King and his tax, and keep 
Sigvald, we shall have done great things. And 
now go and prepare the feast, and look to your 
men's dress and arms. Spare no pains or cost i 
and even if the last butt of mead be broached, 
never mind, if we only keep the Vikings in good 
humour, and play Sigvald oflF against the King." 

So King Burislaf went oflf that day to look, 
after his thralls' work, and he was in such good, 
humour that none of them smarted for idleness i 

astrida's good counsel. 8^ 

and after that he and his followers rode round 
the country summoning his men to the feast ; 
and^ in a word, made everything ready on the 
grandest scale that his resources afforded for the 
entertainment of the Vikings. 



Now the story goes back to Jomsburg and the 
Vikings. The day after the muster was spent 
in preparation and selection. Amongst Sig- 
yald's fifty followers we may be sure all the 
chiefs went> though one of the greatest, Bui the 
Stout, was left to take the command while the 
Captain was away. It was a strange thing and 
worth mention, as proving how completely all 
feuds of family were sunk in the allegiance paid 
to the Captain by every member of the band, 
that Bui the Stout, the sturdy son of Veseti of 
Bornholm, had won all that golden spoil which 
filled those two chests, of which he spoke at the 
muster, out of a raid which he had made on 
Strut-Harold's house not long before he joined 
the band. But as soon as he was admitted into 
the company, perfect peace ruled between Sig- 
vald and himself. His gold he still guarded as 


the apple of his eye, and wherever he sailed 
those chests went with him. By land, on horse- 
back, they were not so easy to move, each weigh- 
ing more than one ordinary man could lift. Bui, 
therefore, was ready enough to stay behind, 
hut, as we have said, most of the other leaders 
went to Burislafs court, and among them Vagn 
and Beorn the Welshman. It was a feature in 
the movements of the Northmen in that age that 
any form of travel suited them. If the waters 
were open they could sail, and so we find them 
in England and France pushing their long ships 
far up the Seine, the Thames, the Exe, and even 
the Stour to Canterbury. On land, when they 
left their ships, if there were horses to be found, 
they rode, and in all the Northern hosts the 
only man we hear of who did not ride was RoUo, 
. the founder of the Duchy of Normandy, and he 
only did not ride because he was so tall, and his 
legs were so long that the garrons and cobs and 
ponies pf that age were not high enough to carry 

Thus it was that those indefatigable hosts 
flew like lightning from one part of England or 
Prance to the other ; and it was this equestrian 


spirit which we find afterwards developed into 
the trained chivalry of the Normans. But when 
there were no horses to be had every Northman 
could march. They stood on their own legs, as 
they said, and these never failed them. 

The Vikings of Jomsburg, fifty-one of them, 
under Sigvald, could have found their way to 
Burislaf s Grange, not quite so fast, but just as 
surely, as Gangrel Speedifoot ; but as their 
neighbours, the Wends, had horses, and, indeed, 
as many of the band had horses of their own, on 
the morning of the second day after the muster 
Sigvald and his men took horse at early dawn, 
and at dusk had put the forty miles or so 
which lay between Jomsburg and Stargard be- 
hind their heels. 

The country through which they rode was 
varied. Now their way passed over great moors 
and plains, now through forests of fir and oak 
and linden and ash, growing more and more 
wooded as they approached the King's Grange, 
which presented the appearance of a large farm 
in a clearing of the forest. 

At the gate of the Grange King Burislaf s 
marshal and his attendant thralls met them, and 


helped them to dismount. In an out-house 
stood wooden buckets of water, in which they 
washed off the traces of travel ; and it was re- 
marked that there was a good store of towels on 
which to dry their hands, a towel for each man, 
proving that the Queen and the Princesses and 
theii' women had not been idle with their 
spinning wheels for years and years before. 

" The Captain," said Beom, " when he brings 
back his wife will bring a good portion of linen 
with her. This is just as it is by the laws of the 
good King Howel in Wales, who ordained that 
no maiden should presume to marry till she 
had spun linen enough for her wedding sheets 
and enough besides to deck her husband's table.'' 

" She will bring back more than linen/' said 
another. " The Wends have always been famed 
for their mead and their wisdom. Let us hope 
she will bring good store of both into Jomsburg/' 

"You are a better judge of mead than of 
wisdom," growled Beom, " and so I trow is the 
Captain, or he would never have come on this 
wild goose chase, breaking the law/' 

" Hold, hold,'' said the other. " 'Tis now you 
that break the law, since yesterday the law is 


changed you know, and now any of us may take 
to himself a wife with the Captain's leave/' 

" All 1 " said another ; " but you forget, Karl 
the Red, that before any of us gets that leave he 
must do something to deserve it/' 

" Well, then," said Karl the Red, whose face 
was covered with a thick red beard, " I hope the 
day will soon come, when this marriage and 
feasting is over, that we may go out for an 
autumn cruise, and then see if I do not dis- 
tinguish myself, for, to tell the truth, I am quite 
as set upon marriage as the Captain/' 

" The Captain is not married yet,'' said Beorn. 
" What says the saw, ' Many a slip 'twixt the 
cup and the lip,* and so it may be in this case/' 

By this time these ablutions which, we are 
sorry to say, were performed with very little 
soap — that being a great luxury — were over, and 
the King's marshal now came to conduct the 
guests to Burislaf s hall. 

It was a building exactly on the pattern of that 
of the Vikings. In the middle burnt the fires, 
along the sides ran the double row of benches. 
As you entered the hall from the door, quite at 
the end of one side, the King sat in state, on 


the right hand in the middle, in gay coloured 
garments, with his coronet of gold round his 
head ; right and left on either hand were 
his councillors and warriors, among whom 
Gangrel Speedifoot was conspicuous, in the 
precedence of their rank. But there was 
this diflference between the King's and the 
Viking's hall, that while the high seat or 
raised chair over against the King was reserved 
for Sigvald and his fifty followers, the Queen 
and the Princesses, and their ladies and waiting 
women, sat up on a raised bench at the end of 
the hall opposite to the entrance, in a position 
which exactly answered to the high table on the 
dais in the mediaeval halls. 

Behind the King stood pages in bright holiday 
clothes, with wax-tapers in their hands, a piece 
of ^ luxury which the Wends owed to their 
wealth in bees. In the North, tallow, or more 
commo^Jly still, long resinous strips of pine- 
wood, served instead of wax. Pages also stood 
behind the Queen and the Princesses, who ipight 
be described as sitting in what passed in those 
times for "a blaze of light." All down the length 
of the hall stood thralls with torches in their 



hands, and altogether, if between the fires and 
the torches there was much smoke, it could not 
be denied that there was more fire in the hall, 
and that King Burislafs banquet seemed every 
thing that was warm and bright and comfortable 
to the Vikings, who had ridden all the way from 
Jomsburg, who were both famished and thirsty, 
and in whose hall at home wax was unknown, 
torches seldom used, and where the horns of 
mead went round to the low dull light of the 
fires which warmed the building. 

Up the hall strode the marshal, followed by 
the Vikings, who wore their best attire, which 
consisted chiefly in wearing blue or red, instead 
of the more sober russet of their daily garb. 
Every man carried his sword by his side, for it 
was an unheard of thing to enter even a friendly 
hall entirely unarmed. Their broad axes and 
spears and bows and quivers and shields were 
left behind in the out-house where they had first 
entered, and now they stood a goodly band of 
fifty most tall and proper men at Sigvald's back 
before King Burislaf in his high seat. 

Fine feathers, they say, make fine birds, and 
King Burislaf, in his high seat, in his royal robes. 


vvith his coronet on his brow, looked a v^ry 
diflFerent man from him who had turned two days 
before to hear King Sweyn's insulting message. 
He was short of stature, as we have said, but he 
had that good fortune, which so becomes a king 
who has to sit in state, that his body was long in 
proportion to his legs, and so when he sate in 
his high seat, he looked taller and more majestic 
than he really was. 

As Sigvald came before him, the Viking 
Captain bowed his head gracefully but proudly, 
and said never a word till the King spoke first 
and said : 

"Welcome to our hall, gallant Captain- 
Welcome, both you and your brave Vikings, 
who are the mainstay of our state and the de- 
fence of our coast. Take the seats of honour 
opposite in the order of your rank, and eat and 
drink and enjoy yourselves as much as you can 
under our royal roof." 

" Thanks, noble King," said Sigvald. " We 
heartily accept your bounty and your good 
cheer,^' and with these words, after another low 
bow, the Captain and his followers took their 
seats on the benches opposite. 

VOL. I. H 


As soon as the guests were seated, a host of 
thralls brought in tressels and boards, on which the 
food was served ; when they had been arranged 
and decked and covered with linen, in which 
again the luxury and the industry of the 
Wendish Court shone out, another crowd of 
thralls bore in the joints, roast and boiled, of 
beeves and boars and deers, which formed the 
feast. After these had been despatched, the 
bones, we are sorry to add, for the sake of the 
manners of those days, being picked clean with 
the fingers, and then thrown beneath the table 
— a custom which, be it remarked, was con- 
tinued in civiUzed Italy until Dante's time — the 
thralls again bore in what were called kickshaws, 
cakes, and puddings, in which women delighted, 
but which the full-fed warriors passed away 
from them by a sign. Eating over, and before 
the serious drinking of the evening began, the 
guests had time to look about them, and to scan, 
through the glare of the torches and the smoke 
of the fires, the faces and features of the Queen 
and Princesses at the upper end of the hall. It 
was not then the fashion for ladies to eat in 
pubhc. For them those were the days of 


luncheon or snacks, which they took at odd 
hours in an uncomfortable way in the afternoon. 
Though they were present on state occasions in 
the hall, they did not partake of anything ex- 
^ cept the kickshaws, in the making of which the 
Queen and the Princesses had ,a great share. 
After the eating, they were present when the 
great toasts to the gods, or to the guests, were 
drank, and after that they speedily and grace- 
fully retired, leaving the men to their ale and 
mead, and to that wassail and merriment, in song 
and story, which lasted till far on into the night. 

On this occasion, as soon as the boards were 
cleared, the King's butler, who was no thrall 
but a freeborn Wend, stalked up the hall, clad in 
a red kirtle and tight-fitting blue hose, and, 
standing before King Burislaf, reached out to 
him a huge horn of mead. 

Up rose the King in his seat, and, bowing to- 
wards Sigvald over against him, who rose as 
Burislaf rose, called out : 

" I drink to the health of Sigvald, Strut- 
Harold's son ; to him and the Vikings that bear 
him company. They are all right welcome on 
Wendish soil.'' 


Then, half draining the horn, he gave it back 
to the butler, who bore it across the hall, and 
handed it to Sigvald, who, in his turn, raised it 
aloft, and said : 

"I drink to the health of the noble King 
Burislaf, Lord of the Wends. Long may he live, 
and long may he rule this land. In this toast 
all my brethren in arms join as one man." 

A murmur of applause followed tjiis speech on 
the Viking side of the hall, and their joy was 
complete when thrall after thrall flocked in 
bringing horns of mead, which they handed to 
the Vikings and the King's men alternately, one 
horn to each pair of men, who rose and pledged 
•each other from opposite sides of the hall. 

When this toast-drinking was over, all eyes 
were turned to the cr<5ss bench on the dais at 
the top of the hall, for all the Vikings, and Sig- 
vald the foremost, were anxious to see something 
of the Princesses, one of whom was the cause of 
their coming. 

But they should have looked before. They 
were too late. In the midst of that revelry of 
toasts and pledges, the Queen and her daughters, 
^nd their women, had passed out of the hall, and 


King Burislaf and his men and their guests were 
left to finish their carouse alone. 

It was one consequence of the King's state, 
and of the arrangement of the seats, that 
nothing like conversation was possible between 
the King and his guests. There the fifty-one 
on one side sate over against the fifty-one on the 
other, talking among themselves, and draining 
their horns of mead, but without a word of com- 
mon interpourse. 

" This is dull work," said Beorn to Vagn. 
." The food is good and the mead equals our own, 
but for all the mirth and amusement we get, 
we are far better off at home in Jomsburg than 
in King Burislaf 's ball/' 

Whether the King thought it dull himself, or 
whether what followed was part of his plan, 
certain it is, that he beckoned to his butler, who 
in turn whispered to the marshal, who went out 
of the hall, and soon returning went before 
Burislaf and said : 

** May it please your Majesty, your two blue- 
men are ready to wrestle on the floor.'' 

"Let them approach," said the King, "and 
let us make merry over their feats of strength." 


. Then the marshal spoke to the butler, and 
the butler to the warder at the gate, and it 
was thrown open, and two negroes, or "blue-men/* 
as they were called in that age, came bounding 
into the hall. Their woolly heads were close 
shaven, and they were clad in tight vests and 
short hose, that they might wrestle with each 
other with less hindrance. 

It was a barbarous spectacle, but not worse 
than the prize-fights which still sometimes dis- 
grace this age. The two blacks flew at one 
another with the fury of wild beasts, butted at 
each other with their heads, and buffeted one 
another with their fists, grinning and howling 
horribly all the while. Then, coming to close 
quarters, they wrestled with one another for a 
long time, till one gained the mastery, and, with 
a dexterity which either Cornwall or Cumber- 
land might have envied, sent his antagonist 
flying over his head with a fall which left him 
stretched on the ground without motion. The 
victor then squatted down like a huge ape on 
the chest of his fallen foe, who was at last 
dragged out of the hall, giving little signs of life, 
by the thralls, who laid hold of his heels, while 


the i conqueror was rewarded by King Burislaf 
with a horn of mead, which he swilled down 
with the greediness of a brute, and, throwing a 
somersault, K«n off out of the hall amid the 
cheers of the Vikings, who were amused and de- 
lighted with the exhibition. 

" Whence do they come ? What are they ? 
Are they men or apes % '' These were some of 
the questions which ran round the Vikings, only 
to be answered by Beorn, and some of the 
veterans, that they were a kind of wild men who 
lived in Africa, where the sun was so hot that it 
turned all the blood in their veins black, and 
then their faces grew black as well. 

As to how King Burislaf had got possession 
of them, all the butler could say was, that the 
Emperor at Bizantium had sent them as a present 
to Burislaf, when Gangrel Speedifoot came home 
from the East, and that Gangrel said he would 
not care to lead two such monsters, valuable and 
rare as they were in the West, through Russia 
again. No ! not for all King Burislaf 's treasures. 

After this entertainment, which was very suc- 
cessful of its kind. King Burislaf 's minstrels 
followed, and sang to their harps the glories of 


the Wen dish race, and how their kings in par-^ 
ticular had come down straight from Heaven 
to found their dynasty ; but as the music, as 
Beorn said, was very monotonous, and not to be 
compared to the songs of the Welsh harpers, and 
as, besides, the words were in the Wendish tongue,. 
which few or none of the Vikings could under- 
stand, that part of the entertainment was not 
thought nearly so pleasant as the vn*estling of 
the negroes ; and, to tell the truth, Sigvald, and 
wme of his band, began to yawn terribly over 
their cups. 

Perhaps Burislaf saw them across the hall, 
perhaps he guessed it of himself. But however 
it was, when the minstrels had at last finished 
their interminable music, he sent them about 
their business with a horn of mead, and after 
they were gone rose and said : 

" The gallant Captain and his band may well 
be tired after their travel. To-morrow, too, we 
must rise early to hunt the boar and bear and 
wolf. The wax tapers are getting short, the 
logs smoulder on the fires, if you have well 
drunk it might be well to retire to rest.'* 

" We have both v^ell drunk and well feasted,'' 


said Sigvald ; and then he added, with a courtesy 
which well became him, " the wrestling of the 
blue-men and the strains of the minstrels have de- 
lighted both our eyes and ears. Thus sated with 
food and mead, and with feats of strength and the 
sweetest melody, we may well say that nothing 
more is wanting to ensure us a good night's rest/' 

Then Burislaf rose and strode out of the hall 
in great state, preceded by the butler, and fol- 
lowed by his followers, while the marshal and 
thralls waited to lead the Viking chiefs to the 
various outhouses, where they were to sleep, by 
twos and threes in a room, a long loft over one 
of the stables being reserved for the dormitory 
of the rank and file. 

These were not the days of tea and coflFee, of 
headaches and dyspepsia. In a few minutes 
every man in and about the King's Grange was 
sound asleep, except the one or two who had to 
sit up and keep watch and ward over the King 
and his goods. 

Next morning Burislaf and his men were up 
early, nor were the Vikings missing from the 
morning meal. Much the same state was 
observed, the King sat in his high seat, with his 




I - ■ ■ - 

■ * '■ 


men on his side, and Sigvald with his followers 
on his. The food and drink was much the same, 
except that any who chose to abstain from ale or 
mead might drink milk or milk mixed with honey. 
The Queen and the Princesses did not appear, 
and until they chose to show themselves, how- 
ever impatient Sigvald might be, there was no 
use in asking after them. That would have 
been regarded as highly improper in that age, 
quite as much so, in fact, as if King Burislaf had 
all at once asked his guests what was the busi- 
ness on which he came, though he well knew 
what it was, or how long he meant to stay ! In 
those days nothing was considered so imperti- 
nent as curiosity, and nothing so inhospitable as 
to let it be supposed that a guest was not wel- 
<3ome to stay in your house for ever if he chose. 
When the morning meal was over, King Buris- 
laf and his men led the Vikings into the wide 
woods which enclosed the royal farm, and there 
all day, and till it grew dark, they bayed the bear, 
slew the boar, and chased the wolf, having good 
sport with all their game. With the bear Vagn 
especially distinguished himself, for when all the 
rest had left the forest, he turned back to fetch 




his cloak which he had thrown off and forgotten. 
As he sought for it he came upon a huge brown 
bear, not in the sweetest mood, which made at 
him. But Yagn was as strong as a bear himself 
and as cool as any bear as well. He threw his 
cloak oyer the bear's snout as he rushed at him, 
and, turning aside at the same time, got 
behind him while he was entangled in its folds, 
and with one stroke of his sword cut off the 
whole snout just below the ears. Then picking 
it up he walked off with his cloak, leaving Bruin 
to reconcile himself to his position as best he 
could. Wten he rejoined the company they 
were just about to turn back to look for him, 
Beorn, the Welshman, at their head. But when 
they saw him dawdling along with the bear's 
snout, or rather half his head, in his hand, King 
Burislaf aud the Wends burst out in wonder at 
the youth who could cope with a bear single- 
handed, and even the Vikings and Beorn, slow to 
praise one of their own company, all declared that 
there was none among them who at a pinch was 
better than Vagn, Palnatoki's grandson. 

" If the Captain, foster-child," whispered 
Beorn, " brings down his game as well as you 




have brought down your bear, he will be a 
mighty hunter of women ; but here we have 
been a whole day tracking them, and as yet we 
have scarcely seen the game." 

"All in good time," said Vagn, " all in good 
time. Women are more wary than bears, and 
don^t rush at a young man with a cloak as soon, 
as they see him, like yon snoutless bear. As 
soon as Sigvald sees them, he will trap them, or 
one of them, take my word.'' 

But for all that there seemed little chance of 
their doing more than seeing the Princesses at a 
distance. When they met at the evening meal, 
there sat King Burislaf in his high seat, as stiff 
as his royal robes could make him ; there came 
the marshal to lead Sigvald to his place, and 
there sat the Queen and her three daughters 
and their ladies on the cross bench on the dais. 

As the Vikings were not so hungry nor so 
thirsty as they had been the day before, they had 
more time to look about them, and the eyes of 
Sigvald in particular often wandered towards 
that end of the hall ; and as they were both 
long- and sharp-sighted, he soon made up his 
mind that the tallest of her daughters, who sat 


next the Queen, was at first sight the fairest of 
the three. This was Astrida, of whom the reader 
already knows something, hut of whom, up 
to that time, Sigvald knew absolutely nothing, 
except that one of Burislafs daughters bore 
that name. 

The feast that night went on in much the 
BBjne way as that of the day before. The 
boards, when brought in and spread, groaned 
with food, and there was no stint in drink. 
After the m^al, the King stood up and pledged 
Sigvald and the Vikings ; the Queen and Prin- 
cesses and their ladies disappeared, and the 
minstrels began their monotonous strains. But 
the Bluemen, or Blackamoors, did not appear, 
for the very good reason that one of them lay 
with three broken ribs after the struggle of the 
last night, and his companion had no antagonist 
with whom to contend. 

" 'Twill be livelier in Valhalla, if we ever get 
«o far,'' said Beorn. " If things bide so dull as 
this, we shall have to quarrel with some of these 
Wends, just to keep up our spirits." 

" What think you of the Princesses ? " said 
Vagn, when that observation was made. 




"What I think of all women/' answered 
Beorn ; " fair to look on, and foul to take. No 
man knows what it is to have a real enemy till 
he has a woman for his foe. All the harm in 
the world comes from them." 

" But the world could not exist without them. 
Had you never a mother, Beorn ? '' 

" Yes," said the Welshman, "but she was as 
good as dead before I was born, for I never 
knew her.'' 

Or a wife ? " asked Vagn. 
Yes ; but she ran off with an Englishman, 
while I was away on a Viking voyage to Ire- 
land, and wasted my goods — all, that is to say, 
that she did not take with her. That was 
quite enough for me. I never took another." 

"But some might be good,'' rejoined the 
young man. 

"Aye, that's just it," said the old woman- 
hater. " They might, but they are not." 

" Which of these Princesses now do you think 
the Captain will choose T' 

" My eyes are old, and I can see better to 
bend a bow and steer a ship than to pick out 
the fairest of three women ; but to my mind 


the tallest — she tha,t sat next to her mother on 
her right hand — ^had the best of it in looks.'' 

" She looked proud as Freyja herself," said 
Vagn ; " but for all that she is not so fair as 
Ingibeorg, Thorkell's daughter. Do you think 
she will take the Captain 1 " 

" Take the Captain ? " retorted Beorn, " of 
course she will. Setting aside his brother 

Thorkell, Sigvald is the tallest and fairest of 

the band, quite as comely as you, foster-child, 

and withal an older and a more proper man. 

If we talk of taking, it would be rather, will 

Sigvald take her ? " 

" Why he came hither to choose one of the 

Princesses ; what can he do better than take the 

fairest ? " 

" Aye, aye ! " said Beorn ; " but marrying a 

princess is not so straightforward a thing ; 

Burislaf has no sons, and these three princesses 

are his heirs. If Sigvald marries one of 

them, he becomes entitled to a third of this 

realm on Burislaf 's death." 
*' Then we Vikings of Jomsburg, who have 

everything in common, will share in this third 

part of Wendland t " 



*' True, boy/' said Beom ; " and pretty work 
we should make of it, sharing the land among 
us, and tilling the soil like thralls, and leaving 
the burg, and being cut oflF by the Wends 
and Grermans one by one. That sharing of land 
would be even worse than bringing women into 
the burg." 

"This question of the marriage must be 
settled to-morrow," said Vagn ; " for I know 
Sigvald told Bui we should be back on the 
fourth night. We shall hear naught to-night ; 
see, the King rises to leave the hall, and bids 
Sigvald sleep sound, as we all shall, after our 
long day's hunting.^' 

So the Vikings left King Burislaf 's hall, and 
sought their beds, and their first day among the 
Wends came sleepily to an end. 


«IGVALD's wooing and king BURISLAP's AK8WBR 

Next morning at breakfast, when King 
Burislaf and Sigvald met, the King asked what 
1;he Vikings would hke to do— whether they 
would spend it in hunting, or in fishing in the 
river, or in manly sports . 

''We had sport enough yesterday in your 
royal woods,'' said Sigvald. " To-day let us 
think of business, and of my errand hither.'* 

''Eat and drink your morning meal first," 
said Burislaf. "No business sits well on an 
^mpty stomach." 

So Sigvald and his Vikings and the King 
and his men took their seats in the hall, and 
despatched their meal in silence, for Sigvald 
was thinking of his wooing, and Burislaf of the 
clever ^swer which he had ready for his 

When the boards were cleared, Burislaf said 
to Sigvald : 

VOL. I. I 



" Let US retire to my small room, and then 
I shall be ready to know what business brought 
you hither." 

He said this after he had risen from his high 
seat ; and as Sigvald had also risen, *the King 
and his guest met in mid hall. 

" Not so, King Burislaf,'' said Sigvald. " Not 
so ; my errand, hither, though but partly known 
to thee, is well known to all my men. The 
Vikings have changed that head of our law 
which forbids any of us to take a wife, and my 
errand hither is to ask the hand of one of your 

The wily King — though, as we have said, he 
had been informed already of Sigvald's intention 
— ^aflfected great surprise at this proposal 

" A king's daughter, sprung from the royal 
house of Ruric, and the monarch of the Wends,^ 
married to a Viking captain ! That, Sigvald, is 
an oflFer over which we must thipk twice. 
Eagles do not match with hawks, nor ravens 
with daws." 

"An earl's son of Danish race is a hawk 
compared with the royal race of Ragnar at 
home, but he is an eagle when matched with a 

^irr.t^j: t ir:. 3 

Wend, howcrer frm^j.^ ssul r^'ir^i v^juZ-^. 
" As for daws, Uie roreis vc :aie J^inl ar^ nt 
daws, and I iLrv^ zi^ i^riL vhsl h. ^dut 

There was a Ha^:2-3irnr cf amiai»e itijil ^^ 
Vikings hdiind I 'n VLiii Biiinrei "lLw iii^j 
were pleased witii S:zT5il55 i/iui v^j^^ r^iJic 
the £cices of some ol" B::ris^§ fjll.'vert tuni^i 
pale with fear. Ereii lite K iiig niiubc^i: Uiirj^L: 
he had gone too isLi. ai^d ilisi h ^« liiii^ to 
draw in his horns. 

" Be not angry, noble Sigrali^ he Baii ** I 
only meant to show that this oCer had taken 
me by surprise, and that I had tLou^t 10 we 1 
my daughters to men rf higher birth, high 
though yours is, and In^Te and raliant as you 
are ! '' 

/' I came hither to consult you on business," 
said Sigvald, " and now you know my errand. 
I await your answer, King Burislaf. To-morrow, 
after the morning meal, my men and I will 
mount and ride home/' 

" Be it so/' said Burislaf. " Stay with us to- 
day. To-night, after supper, you shall have 

speech and nearer sight of my daughters, so 

I 2 

>.,. •:• .V tI'.- 

■■ ■" ' ■^. 

> \\ 


that you may make your choice, ^ 
morning, before you leave us, \ffc wi 
you our answer to your offer." 

Sigvald could do taught else than ^^pt 
the King's terms. He and the Vikings spent 
the day in feats of strength, in which their 
might and dexterity were the wonder of the 
surrounding Wends. All that day they saw 
nothing of the Queen or the Princesses, but in 
the hall after supper King Burislaf led Sigvald 
up to the cross bench at the top of the hall, 
where the ladies, contrary to their practice on 
the two previous nights, remained sitting. 

As they stepped on the dais, Burislaf turned 
to the Queen, and said : 

" This is the noble Sigvald, who is our friend, 
and the great safeguard of our coast. He has 
now told us of his errand hither. His secret is 
out. He wishes to ask for the hand of one of 
our daughters." 

Though the Princesses heard this, they did 
not, as perhaps might be the case with modern 
Princesses, start up and hurry from the presence 
of that daring suitor. On the contrary, there 
they sat motionless, two on the right and one 

J3^ vTmnNcr. 

tAff &£ of tAsot mDiii^: wha meraT^ cuk 

eauf s sm. ami ^ ^asBt or ^mr awtn. ^motiilii 
a^ fir ulBr Raoii of (I1I& of onr tj^jI r^v7 

bor^ Bc^ as Taasalk ql (W WeavS^ Km^x Wis 
bj our omB ^i^ swonls. I£ Km^ Buri$):idr 
weens diai eitiher die eastle or o>ur wiu» 
bdoDg to him, let him come aitvl trr to t^k^ 

** If not a Tassal, though I weene<) you Tr^r« 
one, still an earl's son/' said the Queon« 

** Earls in Denmark are kings elaowhare/' 
was Sigvald's proud reply. " But earl's son or 
churl's son, here I am, Sigvald IlaroId'H »on, 
Captain of Jomsburg ; and I demand the Imiul 
of that Princess who sits at your right. Mny 
I also ask whether her name is Afttridfti Quuu- 
hilda, or Geira ; but whatever name dlw hmrHf 
her I choose, who sits now next to you qu ywr 

"Her name is Astrida," said tUe Ku^, '*Wf* 
eldest daughter Your clioic^ Um 4«^iUi4 44m l^ 


OH her soon, like a hawk among a flock of 

" My eyes have not been idle since I sat in 
yotir hall," said Sigvald. " Three nights now 
have I sat in the same hall with Astrida, and 
all last night my eyes wandered towards her 
seat. My thoughts had already settled on her 
before I spoke of my errand this morning/' 

As Sigvald said this, he would* have turned 
and spoken to the Princess, biit this was a step 
utterly unknown to the court etiquette of the 
Wends. After Sigvald's declaration as to his 
deliberate choice, the Queen rose, and her 
daughters and ladies with her. As they left 
the hall, King Burislaf said : 

** You have spoken your mind, noble Sigvald ; 
and, as I have promised, you shall have your 
answer in this hall to-morrow at the morning 
meal. We will do all we can to further your 
suit, for we look on you and your comrades as 
the mainstay of our kingdom ; and though the 
Queen uttered the word, it is not as vassals we 
look on the Vikings of Jom^b^rg. But I warn 
you if we grant your suit it may be coupled 
with some conditions.^' 

sigvald's wooing. 119 

Sigvald's answer showed that even that short 
glance at Astrida had enchained his heart. 

" The Princess is fair as Gterda to look on. 
Any condition which does not bind me to give 
up my good sword, like Freyr, wiU be looked 
on as hght by me/' 

What Beorn the Welshman, the sworn woman- 
hater, would have said had- he heard this gallant 
^speech, is not hard to imagine, but as Sigvald 
and Burislaf stood alone on the dais, after the 
departure of the Queen and the Princesses^ no 
-one heard it but the King, who said : 

" Well spoken, noble Captain ; spoken like a 
man and a Viking, ready to win his lady-love 
by his good sword, and that alone. Be sure, if 
we lay any behest on you before you get this 
match on which your heart is set, it wiU be such 
as will not require you to part with the sword 
which has been such a terror to our enemies 
and your own." 

The two then left the dais, and returned to 
their high seats, and the revelry and minstrelsy 
filled out the evening as before. 

While the King took counsel of his Coun- 
sellors on either side, Sigvald and his brother 


Thorkell spoke long about the match. The 
end of this conversation was that Thorkell said: 

" Why, brother, you are so taken with this 
royal maiden, that you are, after all, like Freyr, 
and will do anything to get her/' 

"Everything, brother,'' said Sigvald, "that 
may befit my own honour, and the interests 
of the band." 

" May your honour and our interests ever go 
together, brother ; but what a thing this love is 
that pulls down a man's strong will, as though 
it were a straw, and fills his soul with fancies^ 
when before, he had thought alone of war 
and spoil." 

"Marked you, foster-child," said Beorn to 
Vagn, " how flushed and red the Captain's face 
was when he came back from the dais T 

" I marked it well," said Vagn, " and put it 
all down to the good ale and mead." 

"Ah!" said Beorn, "that was none of the 
honest blushes which strong drink brings even 
into my bronzed cheeks. No f no! but was 
a blush of shame, caused by the poison called 
love. Who can tell whether these Wendish 
women have not bewitched our Captain with. 


sigvald's wooing. 121 

their runes and filtres. They are as bad in that 
way as those Finns we burnt in their wigwams 
last year, in Helgeland, When love once geta 
hold of a man, no one can tell whither it will 
lead him." 

Again the feast came to an end, the three 
nights having been attended with a consumption 
of drink and food which drove Burislafs butler 
and marshal to their wits' end. One of the 
matters of business on which they talked with 
their royal master was the approaching end of 
the stores, laid up in the cellars of the grange, 
and they were, therefore, greatly comforted to 
hear that the terrible Vikings were not likely to 
spend another day with them, but that they 
would mount ahtPrtde as soon as they had drunk 
their stirrup-cup after the next morning's meal. 

" Such men to drink I never saw," said the 
butler, " and may it please your Majesty, the 
worst of them all is the oldest of the band. 
Horns of mead and ale go down his throat like 
water, or far faster than running water. They 
call him ' Beorn the Welshman,' that is, in their 
barbarous tongue. Bear the Welshman, and 
surely he is a bear at drinking." 

: /■ 


"We grudge them nothing; they are our 
friends/^ said the King ; " but be sure if either 
meat or drink fail while they are here, you both, 
our butler and our marshal, will come to grief. 
I will cut a red stripe out of each of your 

"They shall last," cried the butler; ^'but, 
please your Majesty, if they oflFer to stay another 
day, do not suflFer it, for we have not enough 
left, either of mead or meat, for such another 

"They will go," said the King in a grand 
way, "but Burislaf the Wend can never turn 
any guest out of his house." 

So the King arose, and the Vikings went to 
their rest, and the butler and the marshal 
passed the night with great dread, lest the un- 
welcome guests should prolong their stay ; but 
they need not have been in such fear, for Sig- 
vald was eager to get his answer and to depart, 
that he might fulfil the conditions laid on him, 
and return and bring back Astrida to Jomsburg 
as his bride. 

Whether he slept sound or not that night is 
not recorded, but if lovers in those days were 

sigvald's wooing. 123 

iike lovers now, it is certain that the Captain 
of the Vikings could not have had a wink of 

He was up with the lark, looked at his own 
arms, mustered his men, and made them look 
to theirs, had their horses brought to the grange 
from the fields in which they had been tethered 
and fed on Burislaf s hay and corn. In a word, 
like a prudent leader, he saw that all was ready 
for a start after breakfast, and then he sat dovm 
with Burislaf in his hall, feeling that he had 
done a good morning's work, and yet it was not 
nine o^clock. 

What King Burislaf had been about in the 
meantime does not appear. Perhaps taking 
stock with his butler of the fearful inroads which 
the sharp-set teeth of the fifty-one Vikings had 
made in his cellar and larders. Perhaps in 
renewed deliberations with the Queen and 
Astrida. In whatever way he had spent the 
morning there he was in his high seat in the 
hall, bidding his guests welcome to breakfast, 
and ready to speed in every way the parting 

There was one new feature in that morning's 


repast. It was shared by the Queen and the 
Princesses, who actually had tables laid before 
them, and lifted horns of mead to their dainty 
lips. It was the first time that the Vikings had 
seen the royal ladies by the light of day, and 
though very little of that light found its way 
into the hall through the side slits just below 
the roof, they had a better chance of seeing 
them, and taking the measuiFfe:;of their charms, 
than was possible through the smoke and glare 
at night. 

" Lovely maidens all three,^' said Vagn, " and 
the Captain has chosen well if Astrida be that 
tall one with the raven locks and bright blue 
eyes ; but for all that Ingibeorg — '' 

Here his ravings about the fair Norwegian 
were brought to an end by his foster-father, who 
gave him a thump on the back, as he passed the 
horn to him, and bawled out : 

" Stop ! stop ! boy, I am sick of Astridas and 
Ingibeorgs ; love-making is no 'trade for Vikings. 
I heard the Captain say, if this match were 
made it could only be on some conditions. I 
only trust we may be sent on a quest as long as 
that on which Thor went to Utgard, and that 

sigvald's WOOIKG. 125 

we may be all cut off in it, and go straight to 
Valhalla, where you know there will be no 
women, and so never have to bring women and 
wives into Jomsburg." 

At last the meal was over. In the court- 
yard were heard the champing and snortiDg and 
neighing and tramping of the fifty-one horses, 
which the King's thralls held outside, ready for 
the Vikings to mount and ride. 

It is a dreadful and a dirty thing to think of 
in these times of universal baths and shirt- 
45hanging ; but not one of the Vikings had any 
baggage with him. The clothes they stood in 
were their best, and they had not brought a 
change with them. Nor certainly was there a 
sponge or a tooth-brush among the band. Even 
towels, one to each man, had been looked on as 
a great luxury. Verily most dusty, dirty and 
uncomfortable times. 

But to return. The meal was over, when 
Sigvald rose and said : 

" The hour has come. King Burislaf, when we 
must mount and ride. What answer do you 
give me to my offer for the Princess Astrida's 


'' The answer is ready," said the King. 

" May I hear it in private/* asked the Cap- 

"Not so," said the King with dignity. 
" Your offer, Sigvald, was made in open hall, in 
the hearing of your nien and mine, and my 
answer shall be as open, so that all the men 
may hear it." 

" Utter it at once," said Sigvald, " and let me 
go with my men." 

"This is my answer," said King Burislaf; 
"you shall have Astrida, though, as you well 
know, I look on it as an unequal match. What- 
ever you earls may be in Denmark, we in Wend- 
land think earls far below kings. But as you 
are a tall, proper man, the captain of a great 
company of valiant warriors, and so powerful in 
men and money as to find few your match in 
the North, we are willing to give you my 
daughter's hand on two conditions. The first, 
that you set Wendland free from any tax or 
tribute that other kings may claim from us ; the 
second, that before the first night of this next 
coming Yule, you bring King Sweyn of Den- 
mark with you to this grange, and place him in 


sigvald's wooing. 127 

our power, to do what we like with him. If 
you cannot do both these things, then, Sigvald, 
you shall not have my daughter's hand." 

That was what King Burislaf said, and it was 
plain, from the crest-fallen faces of Sigvald and 
his Vikings, that they felt themselves very much 
in the position of the Norse gods in Asgard, 
when one of them was asked to put his hand 
into the Wolf's mouth ; or like Balder, when the 
mistletoe flew through him. For a moment or 
two neither Sigvald nor any of his men said a 

word. Then, after he had recovered his speech, 

he said : 

" Set Wendland free from any tax or tribute 

that any King claims ! Who claims any tax or 

tribute from thee, King ? " 

"That we do not tell you," said Burislaf, 

"you must find that out for yourself, and 

when you have found it, make the King that 

claims it give it up." 

" And then the second," said Sigvald ; " how 

am I to bring King Sweyn hither 1 " 

"That I am sure I cannot tell," said the 

crafty Burislaf. "All that I say is, that you 

have asked for Astrida's hand, and those are 


the conditions. You Vikings cannot be iie 
great and brave men you are said to be, or to 
be so deep-witted as some of you claim to be, 
if you cannot do both these things.^' 

"Does the Princess agree to this?" asked 



"Listen to her own words," said Burislaf. 
"Astrida, you have heard what I have said. 
Do you agree before all this company to become 
Sigvald's wife, if he sets our country free from 
any tax or tribute which other Kings may claim 
from us, and if he brings King Sweyn of Den- 
mark hither, before the first night of the next 
coming Yule, and place him in our power ? " 

" I do,'' said Astrida. 

" Then,'' said Sigvald, " I accept the terms. 
Before next Yule, King Sweyn shall be here, 
and after that I will set this land free from 
tax or tribute, so help me all the gods, and 
if I do not, then I forego my claim to Astrida's 

By this time the Vikings had recovered their 
self-possession, and a roar of applause followed 
the bold words of their Captain, in which eFen 
the Wends joined. 


sigvald's wooing. 12D 

" Nothing then remains, noble Sigvald/' said 
King Burislaf, '' than that you should drink 
your stirrup-cups and mount and ride. As- 
trida, bear a horn of mead to the noble Sigvald, 
and bid him good speed on his journey and 
his quest." 

*'With all -my heart," said Astrida, as she 
handed the horn to her suitor. * 

After he had drained it, Sigvald turned to 
her and said, — 

** Long before the first night of Yule, King 
Sweyn shall be here, or I will die in the at- 
tempt to bring him, and when that is done, the 
tribute will be an easy thing." 

" No doubt," said Astrida, "and if you will 
take counsel from me, you will be sure to 
bring 'him first. You may find then that it 
will be far easier to rid us of the tribute." 

Then Burislaf thanked Sigvald for the honour 
he had done him in coming so far to see him, 
md Sigvald thanked him in return for his 
royal bounty and hospitality, and the Vikings 
;ook horse and rode home, rather puzzled to 
enow whether their journey had been success- 
*ul or not. 

VOL. I. K 



The very next morning after his return 
Sigvald called together his chiefs, and especi- 
ally Bui the Stout, the stern Viking, who 
would not leave his chests of gold, and so had 
stayed behind to rule the garrison. 

When he laid the matter before them they 
all agreed that if anything was to be done in 
the matter it must be done quickly. Though 
September was passing away, they might be 
sure that the news of the conditions laid down 
by King Burislaf would sooner or later reach the 
^ars of King Sweyn, and when that happened 
their enterprise would bo tenfold more difficult. 
Nor, strong though they were in men and ships, 
were they at all a match for the united strength 
of Denmark, if any cause, such as an attack 
upon the King, combined the nation in self- 

If King Sweyn were to be caught and 


•trapped it must be by guile and cunning rathei- 
than by brute force, but by what stratagem no 
man could tell. 

All this time Beorn the Welshman chuckled, 
.as might be supposed, and declared that Buris- 
laf had completely worsted Sigvald in the trial 
of wit, and had laid on him conditions which 
no man could fulfil. "Bring Sweyn to the 
King's grange !" he constantly repeated; "it is 
all very well to say bring him, but how is ho 
to be brought f and, indeed, that was the 
opinion of Bui and all the band. It would be 
•easy to provoke King Sweyn to battle, and, 
perhaps, to conquer his fleet and take him 
prisoner ; but then, perhaps, he might defeat 
them, and then the company would be ruined, 
merely that Sigvald might marry a princess. 
The end was that nothing came of their de- 
liberations, and Sigvald was left very mucli 
to his own resources, and became for a day 
or two rather a laughing-stock to his men. 
He got wan and pale, and wandered about 
in deep thought, and Beorn, whenever he saw 
him, held up his hands and said to Vagu, his 
constant companion, 

K 2 


" See how true it is all that I said of thosfrfc h 
Wendish philtres and runes. Take my woTd|bT 
for it, Astrida has bewitched him." 

So two days or more went on and Sigvali 
was as far oflF his end as ever, when one daj 
Gangrel Speedifoot walked into the burg almost |«s* 
unchallenged, as the warders knew him well, 
and once in he came straight to Sigvald'^ 

" I have a message for thee, Captain," 
lie said, "and it comes from the Princess 
Astrida, who says she has thought over your 
matter, dnd this is how you must act if you will 
bring King Sweyn. She is sure this is the way 
it must be done, for she dreamt it in a dream — 
and she is a clear dreamer — and this is what she 
dreamt : " It seemed as though you had set sail in 
your ships for Denmark to fetch King Sweyn,. 
and that when you got to Zealand you fell 
ill and were so sick that you could not land, 
and that you sent for King Sweyn to come 
on board ship to you, and lo ! he came — and 
suddenly, before he could set his foot on shore 
again, a great wind arose and carried the ship 
and you and him in it to Jomsburg, and when 


.^ou had him in Jomsburg it was an easy matter 

to bring him to King Burislaf. She bade me 

*^lso tell you, that it is King Sweyn and none 

•else who claims tax and tribute from King 

Burislaf, so that if you should be able to catch 

him in that way, you may kill two birds with 

one stone, and fulfil both the conditions at 

once. In token of all this she has sent you 

this golden ring, which you saw on her 

finger as she handed you the horn that morn- 


That was Gangrel Speedifoot's message, and 
it is easy to see how very happy it must have 
made the Captain. Why had Astrida taken 
all this trouble, and told him the best way to 
fulfil the conditions and win her hand if he 
had not found favoiil* in her eyes by his bold 
.suit for her hand ? 

" Say nothing to any of the band about this/'* 
said Sigvald to Gangrel Speedifoot. " Fill your 
pockets w^ith these gold pieces and find your 
way back to the Princess as soon as you can. 
Stay ! bear this ring too as a token from me, 
-and say that within one month — and that seems 
.a very long time — I will either bring King 


Sweyn to King Burislaf or perish in the^ 

So Sigvald and the messenger parted, and no^ 
one knew of the Princess's message but the 

Next day Sigvald summoned his chiefs again 
to counsel, and said — 

"I have now thought over this matter of 
King Sweyn, and how to catch him with little 
risk, but I cannot tell you the way in which I 
mean to seize him, except that if it fail, and 
I perish in the attempt, it will be with little 
loss of life. I will only take three ships with 
me, and one hundred men in each. They need 
not be our largest ships, as they will'have to lie 
close up to shore." 

" We do not ask," said Bui, " what your plan 
is. We trust you thoroughly, and have no« 
doubt that if your wit cannot devise some plan 
to catch the King no one else can. Only re- 
member, that if you perish all the band will; 
have a blood-feud against King Sweyn, for we 
are all brothers in arms, and each bound to- 
avenge the other." 

" Thanks, Bui the Stout, and spoken like the^ 


noble warrior you are. Believe me, I have 
every hope that you will neither have to waste 
your gold chests in paying a ransom for me, 
nor will the band lose strength by any deaths 
among my crew. I mean to win the day by 
cunning only, and to bring King Sweyn hither 
without losing one dop of blood ! But as things 
turn out variously, and it may be fated that 
I should die on this voyage, I leave Ae captain- 
ship of the band to thee, Bui, while I am away ; 
and as for thee, Beorn, and thee, Vagn, I pray 
you both to come with me to share in this 
hunting of a king." 

" With all my heart,'' said Beorn ; " it is 
nigh two months since I sniffed salt-water and 
saw a foe. My arms are all rusty for want of 
use while we waste our lives idlj at home. It 
will do Vagn good too to see his own land, 
even though he is now an outlaw of King 

So it was settled that three ships and three 
hundred men should go, and that Sigvald, 
Beorn, and Vagn should steer each a ship with 
a crew of one hundred men. 

As the war-snakes ran out of the harbour. 


the walls and arch over the entrance were 
crowded with Vikings, who longed at once to 
be with them, and wished them a speedy voyage 
and a safe return. 

The weather was mild and fine and the sea 
smooth, as it often is at that time of the year 
in the Baltic. Sigvald and his little squadron 
sped swiftly over the waves, as the rowers plied 
their oars, and it was not long ere they neared 
the Sound and ran into the Belt between 
Fiinen and Zealand, on which latter island they 
heard that the King of Denmark was at one of 
his granges. 

It fortunately happened, that though King 
Sweyn was at enmity with some of the Vikings, 
and more particularly with the house of Pal- 
natoki, he had no quarrel with Sigvald or his 
father, Strut-Harold, who was one of his great 
earls, and so looked on the Viking captain 
rather in the light of a friend than an enemy. 
Even, therefore, if he heard that Sigvald had 
been seen in the Danish waters the news would 
not have alarmed him, and he would expect a 
friendly rather than a hostile visit from the 
Viking captain. 


All this Sigvald had reckoned on, and made 
it part of his bold scheme. As soon as he knew 
precisely where the King was he ran his three 
ships boldly into an inlet where there were none 
of the King's galleys, and then made his men 
practise the old plan of Palnatoki, by which 
they lay with their sterns towards the land and 
their prows out to sea, so as to be ready to dash 
forward as soon as the oars touched the water. 

This done, now came the most difficult 
part of the adventure, which Sigvald had 
adopted pretty much after the advice of Astrida. 
He knew the King was feasting in his hall hard 
by with six hundred men, and that as soon as 
he heard of his arrival he would expect to see 
him. But with his three hundred men against 
the King's six hundred he cojild not expect to 
do much. If his purpose were carried out at 
all it must not be carried out by force. 

There sat the King in his hall, which was ar- 
ranged very much like that of the Vikings and 
King Burislaf, only on a grander scale, drinking 
with his men, until the warder spoke to the 
marshal and the marshal to the butler, and the 
butler stood before the King and said : 


** A message, King ! from Sigvald, son of 
Strut-Harold, Earl of Scania." 

" His messengers are welcome," said the King. 
" Let them approach." 

Then Thorkell the Tall, who also went witb 
his brother, strode up the hall, the wonder of 
all the Danes for his huge stature, and came and 
bowed before the King. 

"Welcome, Thorkell," said King Sweyn. 
*' Speak quickly ; which will you do firsi, drain 
a horn or tell your errand 1 " 

" I will do both," said Thorkell ; " for both can 
be done quickly." 

Then he seized the horn and drained 
it, and had scarcely swallowed it before he 
said : 

*' My brother Sigvald craves speech of your 
Majesty, for he has matters of great moment 
to tell you." 

" Craves speech ! " said King Sweyn with 
an oath. " Why then does he not come and 
speak himself ? Why send you as his messenger,, 
tall though you be 1 " 

" Because he cannot leave his ship," said 
Thorkell. "Yonder in the bay he lies bed- 


lidden on board. We ran out of Jomsburg 
three nights ago to seek you, and on the way 
Sigvald has fallen sick, and is now so weak that 
he is at the point of death ; but before he dies 
he desires to see you, and so he has sent me to 
bear the tidings/' 

'*Know you what he wishes to say V asked 
the King. 

" Know ! not I,'' said Thorkell. " Sigvald 
is a man who ever keeps his own counsel, and 
shares it not with others.^' 

" But is he so bad 1 '' said the King. " Must 
I go down to the bay this very night to hear 
his words ? " 

" The morning sun will scarce see him alive,'' 
said Thorkell. "He seemed at the last gasp 
when 1 left. I trow it was something about 
Jomsburg and the captainship that he wished to 

speak about." 

"I daresay — I daresay," said Sweyn, now 
thoroughly bent on going. "Something that 
concerns us much. We will go.'' 

So the King, followed by two hundred men,, 
and the twenty which Thorkell had brought 
with him, left the hall and the amber mead and 


went down to the creek in the bay where Sig- 
void's ships lay. 

When they reached the shore, it was only to 
find a change in the arrangement of the ships. 
They now lay lashed together end on, so that 
the two that lay nearest to the shore were as 
it were a jetty or bridge to reach the third, in 
which the dck Sigvald lay. 

As soon as Sigvald heard that they were ap- 
proaching the shore, he took to his bed and 
heaped the clothes over him. 

" In which ship is he ? " asked the King. 

" In the third,'' said Thorkell ; " and as our 
ships are small and light, do not take more than 
thirty men with you on board them, lest they 
^should sink under us." 

'^ So it shall be," said the King ; and up the 
gangway he went into the first ship. 

As soon as ever thirty men had stepped on 
board her Thorkell made them pull in the 
gangway and cut the ship off from the land ; and 
when the King with twenty men had gone on 
board the second ship, the gangway in that was 
^Iso pulled on board, and that also cut off from 
the first. So with the third, when the King and 


ten of his men had set foot on board of her, in 
was drawn the gangway, and the third ship was 
cut off from the other two, which at the same 
time slipped their moorings, while the rowers 
sat on the benches ready to start 

When the King — who suspected nothing, for it 
was dark, and he was well drunk — got on board 
the third ship he asked where Sigrald was, and 
was told he was in the cabin at death's door. 

" Has he his speech ? '' asked the King. 

" He has, Lord,*' was the answer ; ^ but he Is 
very weak/' 

" Make haste ! " said Sweyn, " that I may 
hear what he has to say before he dies.^ 

The ships in those days were half-decked^ or 
rather decked at stem and stem. The stem 
rose high up into a poop ; under that deck the 
Captain slept. 

The King went into the cabin where Sigrald 
lay in his berth, and leant over him, and said : 

" Can you hear my voice, Sigvald 1 Tell me 
what you have to ^\ '' 

But Sigvald said never a word. 

Then the King spoke again. 

"What are these great tidings which you 


liave brought me hither to hear, for I am ready 
to listen to them ? Speak, Sigvald, speaf 

Then a low thin voice came out from the pile 
of clothes under which Sigvald lay, and the 
King could just make out — 

" Bend over me a little, Lord, and then you 
ivill be better able to hear my voice, for it is 
now very low." 

Then the King bent over him, and as he did 
so Sigvald threw one arm round his neck and 
took him with the other round his waist, and 
held him with a grasp of iron, which showed 
how little weak he was. 

So he held him fast, and at the same time 
called out as loud as he could to his crew to 
fall to their oars as fast as they could, and row 
out of ihe bay. And so they did on board all 
three ships, and carried off the king and his 
thirty men captive, and left the rest of his fol- 
lowers standing staring on the shore. 



All this time Sigvald held King Sweyn fast, 
and even if he could not have held him, there 
<5lose by stood Thorkell the Tall ready to give 
help ; but, in truth, Sweyn, Viking though he 
had been, and strong though he was, was no 
match for Sigvald, and so the captain held him 

As soon as Sweyn recovered his first surprise 
he said : 

" What ! Sigvald ! will you play me false ? 
What mean you by this treachery ? Great 
tidings are these in truth ; but, after all, I do 
not see why you should treat me thus, who have 
been ever friends with your father, Strut- 

" No treachery is meant, Lord,'* said Sigvald ; 
*' but it will be good for you, as well as for us, 
that you take a Uttle voyage with us to Joms- 


" To Jomsburg ! " said the King. " I never 
meant to fare so far when I got out of bed this 

" Very true, Lord," said Sigvald ; " but no 
man, not even a king, can tell when he rises at 
morn where he shall lay his head at even. 
Your father thought to trap and kill you at 
dawn, but before the sun rose Palnatoki's arrow 
rattled through him from midriff to mouth, and 
he fell dead, and you rose to the throne.'' 

*' Chance and Fate rule all things, it is true,'' 
said Sweyn ; " but why I should fare to Joms- 
burg I cannot see. Will you throw me into a 
dungeon and put another on the throne 1 '' 

" Not so — not so," said Sigvald. " Be sure, 
Lord, we will pay you all honour, and treat you 
in every way as becomes a king. Our hall in 
Jomsburg is not so grand as yours at Hedeby 
or Viborg, but so far as our poor means go, you 
shall lack nothing. You and your men shall 
be welcome as old Vikings and brothers in 


" With some of you old Vikings I have lost 
no love of late years," said the King sullenly. 
*' Beorn, the Welshman, Palnatoki's foster- 


brother, will exult when he sees Sweyn, the 
son of Harold Bluetooth, brought in as your 

" Captive, Lord, is not the word," said Sig- 
vald. "Not captive, but King of Denmark^ 
though in Jomsburg/* 

"King of Denmark, indeed,'' said Sweyn, 
proudly ; " but why a King of Denmark should 
be thus carried off by guile to Jomsburg passes 
my understanding." 

"You will understand it well enough, and 
how all things will turn to your good and glory 
when we reach Jomsburg,'' said Sigvald, And 
as he said this he let go his hold of the King 
and set him free ; and he and King Sweyn 
went out of the cabin on to the poop. By this 
time the three war-snakes bad made a good 
offing in the smooth sea. As the King turned 
to the shore there he saw the lights burning 
through the windows of his hall, and he thought 
of the strange ups and downs of fate, which in 
so short a time had snatched him away from 
his kingdom and his men, and given him over 
into the hands of those who might either turn 
out to be his Mends or his enemies. 



Sigvald seemed to read his thoughts, though 
he could scarcely see his face. 

*' Yes, Lord ! " he said, " there bum the lights 
as we can see ; and there too, though we cannot 
see them, tramp your men back to the hall, ta 
tell how the mighty King Sweyn, the son of 
Harold Bluetooth, has been carried off by the 
Vikings of Jomsburg.^' 

" It is a daring feat/' said Sweyn, " and so long 
as the North is inhabited by men shall this story, 
how Sigvald carried off Sweyn, be told in your 
praise. I am ready to confess that I have been 
worsted in this trial of wit ; by arms I could 
have held my own, but against guile no shield 
is proof'' 

"Let us think and talk no more about it, 
Lord," said Sigvald. " Of this be sure that not 
a hair of your head shall be harmed, and if you 
will only see things when yo\i are in Jomsburg 
in the light that we see them, you shall return 
to Denmark very shortly a greater king than 
you left it." 

" I trust I may," said Sweyn ; " but how that 


is to be is another thing that passes my under- 
standing." . 


** All will soon be made clear. Lord ! '' said 

Sigvald, " and now let us drain a horn of meai^ 

and after that, may it please your majesty to 

retire to rest in my poor bed, the best I have to 

offer you." 

King Sweyn, as we know, had not always 
been a king ; and if he had been, kings in those 
days were not for ever lapped in luxury ; it was 
no privation, therefore, for him to sleep on the 
narrow bed in which Sigvald had so lately lain 
to seize him. Added to this, he was young and 
hopeful, and though all was dark before him, he 
saw at once that the best thing to be done was 
to believe all that Sigvald said, and to treat the 
Vikings as his friends so long as they were 
friends to him. 

For the rest of the voyage, therefore, he was 
merry and gracious. As the rowers, five and 
twenty on a side of the long-ship, gave their 
backs with a will to the work, he was full of 
praise at their dexterity and sturdiness. Whether 
like Olaf, the son of Tryggvi, then an exile 
before Earl Hacon, but afterwards. King of 
Norway, he showed his agility by running along 
the blades of the rowers^ oars when their stroke 


was in full swing, is not recorded ; probably not, 
and yet King Swey n was foremost in his day for 
such feats of strength and skill. All that ^e 
know is, that Sigvald carried him off, as we have 
said, and that on the morning of the third day 
the three long-ships ran into the harbour of 
Jomsburg, and thus Sigvald had as good as per- 
formed the first of the two conditions which 
were to make Astrida his wife. 

Great was the excitement of the Vikings on 
the burg when the warder blew his horn, and 
summoned the Captain to the arch over the 
entrance, whence he scanned the open sea. 

" There be our ships yonder,*' said Bui the 
Stout, " safe enough ; but have they sped 
on their errand, and is King Sweyn on board 
them, or has Sigvald perished, and come these 
ships back to tell us 1 *' 

" 'Tis too soon yet to say whether the flag at 
the mast-head is red or black," said the warden 
" The Captain told me before he sailed, that if 
he had seized the king he would fly a red 
flag, and if he failed the ensign would be 

Then a little further on he called out, "I see 


the flag now as it flies out from the truck, and 
it is — yes, it is red as blood. Shout, boys, in 
triumph,*^ he cried to the Vikings, who now 
thronged the arch, " for the Captain has well 
sped, and in that foremost ship he brings King 
Sweyn with him as his captive/' 

At this we may be sure the Vikings shouted, 
and, then in a Uttle while they ran down to the 
mouth of the harbour, to throw wide the iron 
gates, and to hail the Captain and his comrades 
as they shot into the port. 

As Sigvald ran alongside the wharf, Bui the 
Stout stood ready to greet him. 

"Welcome home, Sigvald, son of Strut-Harold,'^ 
he said. " There is no need to ask how your 
reward has sped, for I see it in your face. 
But where is the King 1 Have you brought him 
alive or dead ? '' 

" Alive, and riot dead, Bui the Stout," said 
Sigvald, " and not a drop of blood shed either 
of his men or ours.'' 

" All power to your head as well as to your 
arm, Sigvald," said Bui. " Sure, none of us is a 
match for you in wit." 

" Say not so," said Sigvald. " In this, too, as 


in most things, chance rules, and not the wit of 


" But where is the King ? 

" In my cabin,'' said. Sigvald, " and ill at ease, 
though he wears a cheerful face." 

" No wonder — no wonder,'' said Bui ; " not for 
all my gold in both my chests would I stand as 
he now stands/' 

"He said," Sigvald went on, "he would not 
stand on the deck to be a sight for our men 
when we ran into the port, and so he sits in my 
cabin. But mind, I have given my word that no 
harm shall happen, either to him or his men, if 
he will only do what is best both for him and 


" We should be dastards and truce-breakers 
if we behaved ill to them in any way," said Bui, 
" and so I am sure all the band will feel, though, 
to be sure, it is a great feather in our caps to 
have caught the mighty Sweyn, King of Den- 
mark, and carried him off to our castle of 

"Come on board and see him,'' said Sigvald. 
" Your father, Veseti, and he have long been 
friends, and, remember now the old friendship 


liow Sweyn stood by you in your quarrel with 
my father, Strut-Harold, when you spoiled our 

" Will that scar never be filled up, I wonder/' 
said BuL '^ I thought it had been long since 

^' So it has, so it has, Bui the Stout," said Sig- 
Tald. " I only thought of it to your good. Have 
not the laws of this great company done awa}*^ 
^11 blood-feuds between us? Are we not bound 
to avenge one another as though we were bom 
brothers, as well as brothers in arms ? " 

"True, true," said Bui, "and yet that old 
<][uarrel passed through my mind, and also 
this, that you are about to break the laws in one 
point. If we break them in one, they may be 
broken in all/' 

" We break them in one point because times 
change, and it is good now to marry, though it 
<^nce was not. But the law that binds every 
one of us to avenge another of the band as his 
bom brother, must abide for ever. So long as 
the band lasts, that law must abide." 

" So long as the band lasts, that is the point/' 
43aid Bui. 


"Point, or no point," said Sigvald impatiently^ 
" come on board and greet the King, and let u* 
lead him to our hall/' 

Then Sigvald and Bui went into the cabin, 
and led King Sweyn out of the ship to th^ 
common hall, while the Vikings gathered round ta 
gaze at the great king, who had, at one time, 
been a Viking hke themselves, and the boldest 
of sea-rovers ; nay, had even been the brother 
in arms ©f Beorn, the Welshman, and the foster- 
child of their old captain, Falnatoki. 

Nor was Sweyn unworthy to be matched 
with any man in that stalwart host. Singularly 
well made, broad across the shoulders, slender 
in the waist, of that lithesome make which so 
often conceals far greater strength than at first 
sight appears ; he was, in stature, every inch 
a king. If Burislaf were rather short and 
squat, Sweyn was far above the middle height,- 
and, except in a band where every man's stature 
was dwarfed by such giants as Thorkell, King 
Sweyn would have been called tall. Besides- 
this, his hair was light brown, flowing in curls 
down his back, his eyes were large and of a deep 
blue, his features were straight, and his mouth 


open and winning. At heart he was sullen, 
crafty, and revengeful, but he had no oppor- 
tunity of displaying the first and last of these 
qualities in Jomsburg. On the contrary, he 
was open, and genial, and confiding, and soon 
won the hearts of the Vikings, who, as we have 
said, looked on him as almost one of themselves^ 
and a glory to the craft. Even Beom, the 
Welshman, who owed him such a grudge for his 
enmity to Palnatoki, was taken by the King's con* 
descension. Sweyn had not seen him on the 
voyage, as, though the three ships steered on 
the voyage in company, no man passed from 
ship to ship ; but as they walked in a sort of 
procession up to the hall, the King picked out 
the veteran from the captains, who bowed be- 
fore him to do him honour, and called out — 

" Well met in Jomsburg, old messmate ; where 
was it we last parted ? " 

" In your hall. Lord,*' said Beorn, " after the 
arrow went round, and I went back into your 
hall to look for my man." 

"True," said the King, " but that was in 
anger. We had parted in peace before." 

** Whether it were peace, or whether it were 


war, I scarce can tell/' said Beorn. " All I 
know is, that it was on the morning after 
Harold Bluetooth fell, and we Vikings said 
that we had all helped to let the rat out of 
the trap." 

" Both that and the arrow shall be forgotten," 
said Sweyn. " Let bjgones be bygones, Beorn, 
the Welshman. Our blood-feud ceased when 
Palnatoki died.'* 

" Spoken like a king,'* said Beorn, •' and what- 
ever come of it I will ever be on your side.'' 

'* Spoken like an old messmate, Beorn," said 
Sweyn ; " but where is Vagn, Palnatoki's grand- 
son ? I would see if the bear's cub takes after 
the old Bruin." 

" He is not far off. Lord, for he is here," said 
Vagn, who stood at Beorn's elbow. 

" King Sweyn looked at Vagn for a moment, 
and said : 

" So this is Vagn, who, when only sixteen 
fought with Sigvald and made him yield, and 
so won his way into this gallant company. 
Denmark is proud of you, Vagn, son of Aki. 
Do you never long to return to Fiinen, and 
settle down on your own estates ? " 


" I am over young to settle down, Lord/^ said 
Vagn. '' A Viking has no home ; like the bird 
in the air or the fish in the sea, his home is 
wherever spoil and fame are to be found. Like 
the bird or the fish, he follows his food wherever 
it may be found/' 

'* But the day may come," said Sweyn, win- 
ningly. " I, too, have been a Viking. You may 
wish to wed, and I know no Viking is allowed 
to take unto him a wife.'' 

"There," said Beorn, "you are, for once 
wrong. Lord, for the law has just been changed 
in Jomsburg, and any man may now marry with 
the Captain's leave." 

" When was the law changed ? " said Sweyn, 
in amazement. 

" Scarce ten nights back,^' said Beorn. 

" Then," said the King, " I look for Vagn back 
to Denmark sooner than I had thought. He will 
marry, mark my words, and when he marries 
he will come back to Fiinen." 

After these words the King passed on to the 
hall, and Sigvald led him to his own high seat, 
where he had his morning meal, for it was still 


early in the day. There we leave the King to 
himself till the time comes for the great fea^t, 
which the Vikings have to make for Sweyn ia 
their haU that night. 



Never had so grand a feast been held in 
Jomsburg, but though short the time to prepare 
it, those were not the days of French cooks and 
made dishes, and the magnificence of a banquet 
<;onsisted rather in the number of the joints 
and game of yarious kinds, and in the abun- 
dance of the drink, than in anything else. 

But for all that it was a grand and solemn 
banquet, and in one thing it surpassed all others 
€ver held in the burg, it was graced by the pre- 
sence of a mighty king. 

There in Sigvald's high seat sat King 
Sweyn, in the robes which he wore when 
he had been snatched away. By his side sat, 
right and left, the chief of the men who had 
been captured with him, who had not yet reco- 
vered their astonishment at the success of Sig- 
vald's stratagem. Over against the king sat 


Sigvald in the high seat opposite, and on either 
side of him were on the right Bui, and on the 
left Thorkell the Tall. All the chiefs of the Vi- 
kings and theur best men, to the number of two 
hundred, were in the hall in their best and 
brightest clothing, collars of gold and sflver 
ornaments, strings of beads and gems, the spoil 
of many voyages, hung round their necks ; and 
their arms, inlaid with gold on hilt and haft, 
bespoke the success which had ever attended 
that famous company in fight. 

It so happened that the only weapon which 
King Sweyn had with him when he was seized 
was a light battle-axe, meant more for show 
than work. This Sigvald had soon discovered, 
and before the feast began, he stepped across 
the hall and said : 

" Though it is unlucky to give a friend steel, 
I trample the ill-luck under my feet, and give 
thee this sword. Lord, which I took away in Ire- 
land in the west, out of the cairn of an old 

As he said this, he held out the sword and 

The King looked at it, and saw it was a thing 


jprice ; a treasure which even a king might 

kr. The hilt and pommel were rich with 

Id and precious stones, and it had a silver 
libbard, tipped with gold. The peace-bands or 
tings which held it in its sheath were of 
olden twist. 

As the King held out his hand and grasped 
the hilt, he said : 

" There is no ill-luck, Sigvald, Harold's son, 
in giving or taking a sheathed sword. It is 
naked steel that cuts love, unless the giver first 
draws his own blood before he gives it. But a 
sword bound by peace-bands, as this is, a king 
might take and a captain give, and yet their 
friendship would be never the worse.'' 

All this the King said in a loud voice, so that 
all in the hall might hear. 

" Gird me now with the sword, Sigvald,'* 
said the King. 

Then Sigvald girded him with the sword, and 
the King called out again, so that every man 

" Now hath Sigvald, Harold's son, girded me 
with his own sword, and done homage, in token 
that I am lord over all this band." 


There was a roar of voices at this among the 
company ; but Beorn said to Vagn, " By this 
trial of wit the King has got the best of it, for 
he has treated Sigvald as though he were his 
marshal or steward, and had girded him with 
his sword in sign of homage." 

If the same thought struck Sigvald, he said 
nothing about it, but slowly returned to his 
liigh seat, and taking a horn from his butler, 
drank to the health of King Sweyn, Harold's 
son, who had honoured the Vikings by paying 
them a visit to Jomsburg, and accepting a ban- 
quet in their halL Having half drained the 
horn, he passed it over to the King, who finished 
it, and in return gave the health of Sigvald and 
all the band. 

After that the feast went on in the usual way. 
There was hard eating and deep drinking, even 
while they were at meat ; but at last even their 
appetites were satisfied, the tables were cleared 
away, and the horns and mead remained be- 
hind. There sat the King with the torch- 
bearers behind him, the observed of all behold- 
ers, and over against him sat Sigvald and his 


There was a pause, and Sigvald seemed 
rather at a loss what to say, but in a minute or 
two he came to himself, and rose, and said in a 
voice just as loud as that in which the King had 
spoken : — 

" Right glad am I, and right glad are we 
Joms vikings. Lord, to see you here at our head ; 
and though that sword with which I girded you 
a while ago, was not meant as an act of homage, 
still I am willing, and we are all willing, that it 
should in part be taken as such. We Vikings 
of Jomsburg owe allegiance to no man. So 
long as we are in this burg, we belong to it, 
and it belongs to us. Out in the world 
it is otherwise ; and when I am at home 
in Scania, or Bui in Bornholm, or Vagn 
in Fiinen, or Beorn in Wales, we each of us 
owe allegiance to the King of those lands, and 
are in so far his vassals. In one way, therefore, 
we are vassals, we chiefs each of us of King 
Sweyn, and in another not But for this time 
at least, now that King Sweyn has been so good 
as to visit us, we will not quarrel about words, 
but will own that for this once we are all his 

TOL. I. X 


There was a murmur of applause, answering 
to the modern " hear I hear ! " at those words of 
the Captain, and every one Ustened what he 
would add to such a clever beginning. 

" It may seem to you, Lord, both that the 
manner of your coming hither was strange, and 
that what I have done was done without a 
reason. But it was not so. You talked of 
homage, and I talked of vassals ; but what is 
worse for the vassals of any land — though I must 
say, I thought all Danes were freeborn men, and 
no vassals — what is worse for vassals or freemen 
than to see that their king will not take to 
himself a wife, and that should anything happen 
to him, as happened, we all know, to Harold 
Bluetooth, he would die and leave no heir to the 
throne. And now I come to the reason which 
led me to Denmark, to seek the King and to 
bring him hither. King Sweyn, Harold's son, 
hath been too long unwedded, and my eyes 
have spied out a princess who is worthy of his 
hand : in fact, she is by far the best royal 
match in all the North. Let the King say the 
word and take her to wife, and he may be 
married, as his people desire, and we all desire. 


and be back at his ball in Zealand long before 
^be first winter night." 

Here the wily Sigvald paused, to let his Butler 
<fill his horn. Then he raised it high in air, and 
half draining it, passed it over to the King, 
calling out as he did so : 

" This horn I drain in honour of the Queen 
^f Denmark ! " 

As King Sweyn took the horn, which it would 
iiave been the greatest slight to his host to re- 
fuse, he said, with a very puzzled look : 

" I may well drink this toast to the Queen of 
Denmark, my queen that is to be one day or 
other. This binds me to nothing, to drink to a 
nameless queen, and sooner than spare your 
4rink, Sigvald, Harold's son, I drain this horn, 
declaring that I never yet heard of a king who 
was given away to a woman whom he had not 
yet known.'' 

As he said this. King Sweyn drained the 
horn, amidst the shouts of the Vikings ; and 
then Sigvald went on : 

" I am well pleased that King Sweyn has ful- 
filled the wishes of his subjects and vassals, and 
^11 his freeborn folk at home and abroad, and 


has plighted his troth to the princess of whom I 
spoke. If he wishes to know her name, he shall 
have it at once. It is Gunnhilda, and she is 
daughter of Burislaf, King of the Wends, with 
whom and his forefathers the Kings of Denmark, 
as we all know, have had some dealings. Fill the 
liorns/' he roared out, " to the health of Gunn- 
hilda, Queen of Denmark ! but as the King has 
not yet heard her name, he shall not drink the 
toast, though, unless he learns to like her, I am 
afraid he will have to stay longer than I expect 
in Jomsburg." 

These last words were not lost on King 
Sweyn. He knew that he was in a trap now, 
just as much as when Sigvald held him in his 
iron grasp, and that he could not leave Joms- 
burg except at the Captain's good pleasure. He 
rose therefore as soon as Sigvald had ended, and 

" Bring hither the horn, and let it mantle 
high ; I will drink to the health of Gunnhilda,. 
Queen of Denmark ! " 

If the Vildngs had shouted with joy before, 
they were ten times as noisy now that King 
Sweyn had yielded to their Captain's will. Th& 


"King raised his horn in air, and up went all 

the horns at the same time, and " Gunnhilda ! 

<3unnhilda ! Queen of Denmark ! " rang through 

i;he hall. 

" He has swallowed the hook, brother,'* said 
Thorkell, " which you so skilfully baited. He 

is now in your hands. You may do with him 
what you will." 

When the uproar had abated, King Sweyn 
rose, and said : 

" Though I cannot compete with Sigvald in 
his glib tongue, I may still crave leave to say 
^ few words. As is well known to all of you, 
this match is none of my seeking ; nor would I 
have chosen a Wendish princess had I been left 
to my own free will. There has never been any 
>iove lost between the Danes and Wends ; and, 
^besides, I have just claimed from King Burislaf 
the tribute which my father Harold laid on his 
father Myeczyslaf, but which has never been 
paid. Still, as Sigvald has been so good as to 
choose for me, and as you all know I am here in 
a cleft stick, what can I say but that I will take the 
-caaiden if she be fair of face and hale of frame." 


Having said this, King Sweyn sat dowiT' 
amidst the applause of his hosts. 

Then Sigvald rose again, and said : 

*' I would never have set my eyes on a prin- 
cess for you. King Sweyn, had she not been both 
fair and strong. There are some here who think 
Astrida, the eldest daughter of King Burislaf, 
tlie fairest of the three, but for all that Gunn- 
hilda, the second, is a princess in every way 
fitted for the throne. It is not right, therefore, to* 
look on this match, which we have chosen with 
much care, as though it were one of force or 
need. True it is, King, that you have come 
against your will to Jomsburg, but that was only 
to bring you to the princess, and in no sense are 
you here as a captive, but as a king." 

**Say no more," said King Sweyn. "This- 
is not the bed on which I should have chosen to- 
lie, but here I am in it, and I must be content 
with it, be it long or short, easy or hard. L 
have given my royal word to wed Gunnhilda, if 
she is fair and hale. I am ready to go to King, 
Burislaf 's Court to-morrow, that I may be the 
sooner married, and the sooner get back to my 


"There, again/' said Sigvald, *'! am con- 
strained to speak a word against the King. No 
doubt he is burning to fly to see this fair lady ; 
but princesses, fair as she, are not to be 
frightened. I must first go before the King to 
herald his coming, and when that has been done 
we will lose no time in bringing King Sweyn to 
the Court of Eang Burislaf.'' 

By this time the King was weary of the 
marriage and of the debate, in which it seemed 
that Sigvald was to have it all his own 

" Bring me a horn of mead/' he said, " and 
let me wash this marriage out of my throat, down 
which it has been forced. I will give you a 
toast, Vikings, in which you will all join, I am 
sure : * May all your marriages be as lucky as 
mine, now that you have broken your old laws, 
and are all eager to marry.' " 

Round went the Butler and the thralls, up 
went the horns, and down went the foaming ale 
and mead. " May all our marriages be as happy 
as King Sweyn's," was the cry, and then there 
were no more speeches and no more wrangUng, 


but drinking long and deep, till, as the Saga 
says, King Sweyn and Sigvald the CaptaiD, 
and all the Chiefs of the Vikings^ and every one 
in that hall went well drunk to bed. 



Now we leave King Sweyn, a king in name, 
but a captive in condition, within the walls of 
Jomsburg, treated with honour, but watched as 
jealously as an infant, while Sigvald rode oflF in 
triumph to King Burislaf to say how well his 
errand had sped. 

King Burislaf, as we know, was in no great 
hurry to see Sigvald again. He wished, if he 
<;ould, to be rid of both Sweyn and the Viking 
daptain, though, as is clear, he could only get 
rid of one at the expense of the other. It was 
with no very pleasant feelings, therefore, that he 
saw the company of Vikings, with Sigvald at 
their head, again riding up to his Grange ; and 
his Butler and Marshal groaned, when they 
thought of the fresh inroads which the new- 
<5omers would make on their stores. 

But there was no help for it. There they 


were, and the Wends had to make the best of 

" How many days, Gangrel Speedifoot," said 
the King, " is it since they were last here ? " 

" Barely fourteen nights,'' said the swift run- 
ner, " Sigvald, Harold's son, equals Thialfi in 
the fleetness of his feet." 

By this time the Vikings were in the court ot 
the Grange. Thralls hurried forward to hold 
their stirrups and tend their horses, and King 
Burislaf greeted Sigvald as though he were over- 
joyed to see him. 

**What news, what news from Jomsburg, 
noble Sigvald ? Is all well with your band ? " 

"All is well," said Sigvald; "but as for 
tidings, more has happened since we parted 
than a fasting and a standing man can 

" True ! true ! " said the King. " Here, you 
thralls, lead the noble Sigvald to his lodgings, 
and, as soon as he has bathed his limbs^ lead 
him to our hall." 

While Sigvald retired Burislaf went into the 
Queen's bower, and, holding up both his hands, 
exclaimed, — 


** Here has that furious Viking come back 
again^ and he has so much to tell that he must 
wait to eat before he utters it." 

" Back again so soon ! " said Astrida. " Haa^ 
he brought King Sweyn with him ? " 

" King Sweyn with him ? '^ said both the King 
and Queen in amazement. " Why should you 
think that he could do such a thing 1 " 

** Because a while ago I dreamt a dream/"' 
said Astrida ; '* and methought Sigvald came 
hither, and brought King Sweyn with him." 

" Dreams always go by contraries," said the 
King. " Why that was the very feat which we- 
laid on this Viking, because we thought it would 
be too hard for him." 

** Sigvald is a proper man," said Astrida, 
** and a crafty and a bold withal. To such a 
man all things are possible." 

" Well ! " said the King, " women, as is well 
said, are as a turning wheel. One cannot tell 
what they will say or do. Not a fortnight ago 
you thought Sigvald beneath you, and were all 
for putting him oflf by laying a quest on him 
which he could never carry out, and now you 
say he is a proper man, which no doubt he is,. 


and bold too ; but, as for craft and guile, that vfQ 
have got to see/' 

" I feel, for all that you say, as though I should 
be the Captain's wife, for you must keep your 
word if Sigvald fulfils the conditions." 

" Of course, of course,'* said King Burislaf ; 
^* but what is the use of talking about it, when, 
no doubt, he has come to tell us in a long story 
that he gives up the match." 

" That, something tells me," said Astrida, "he 
will never do." 

" We shall soon know," said Burislaf ; " and 
now put on your best attire all of you to grace 
the banquet. Thank the Gods, there are but ten 
of them come this time to eat us out of house 
and home." 

" Something tells me, too," said Astrida, " that 
you will hav6 to make a feast soon that will 
waste all your stores of meal and mead and 

" Something is always telling you ' some- 
thing,' " said Burislaf. " Such another feast as 
we made fourteen nights ago for these sharp- 
toothed Vikings, and we shall never be able to 
make both ends meet through the winter." 


But, though close and stingy in his heart, 
nothing could have been more hospitable and 
generous than King Burislaf in his hall that 
evening. Wax-tapers blazed, mead flowed, 
boards groaned, and minstrels sang. 

When the boards were cleared, the King rose 
as before, and drank to the health of Sigvald, 
who had again honoured him with a visit. 

" Such a friend," he said, " he was always 
glad to see. The more so, as he was sure that 
he would not have taken the trouble to ride so 
far had he not some news which it concerned 
the Wends to know." 

Sigvald rose, and drank to the King in return, 
and then said, — 

" Not much, has happened in Jomsburg since 
we parted, but much out of if 

" Not much in, and yet much out," repeated 
the King. " You speak in riddles. Speak out, 
man, if you have aught to say." 

" I will," said Sigvald haughtily. " No news 
has happened in Jomsburg, but in Denmark 
King Sweyn is missing." 

*' King Sweyn missing ! Since when and how 
have the Gods taken him to themselves." 



" The Gods have not taken him," said Sigvald. 
*' He has been missing from Denmark since I 
took him five nights since, and carried him off 
to Jomsburg, where he awaits your majesty's 

"King Sweyn in Jomsburg," cried out Buris- 
Jaf; "and awaits my pleasure. Strike up, 
minstrels, your loudest and most joyful strains, 
for now the ancient foeman of the Wends is de- 
livered into my hands." 

" How say you, King Burislaf," shouted Sig- 
vald across the hall, " have I fulfilled one of the 
conditions which you laid on me that I might 
win your daughter's hand." 

"All but,'' said the King; "the bargain 
was that you should bring him here into our 
power. He is not within it, so long as he is 
shielded by the Vikings of Joms." 

After this piece of news the feast went on for 
a while, till the King rose, and said, — 

" What you have spoken, noble Sigvald, is 
Tight and fit to be uttered in open hall, but there 
are things behind which we will wish to know 
more privately ; rise, therefore, and mount the 
dais, and sit beside the Queen and the Prin- 


cesses, and tell us how you seized King 

This was much after Sigvald's mind, and a 
few steps brought him and Burislaf to the dais, 
preceded by the taper-bearers. As he stood 
before the ladies, his eyes grew bright and his 
face flushed at the sight of Astrida, and it was 
■easy to see that her charms had not been with- 
out their workings on his heart. 

As he bowed before the Queen, he ♦ said, 
speaking to her, but in reality at Astrida, — 

"Gracious lady, one of my conditions has 
been fulfilled, more by the clever counsel of 
others than of myself. King Sweyn is now 
in Jomsburg, honourably treated, as is seemly, 
by the band, and he only awaits your 

" 'Twas a bold deed, and not wrought without 
bloodshed, no doubt ? '' said the Queen. 

" So far from that/' said Sigvald, " not a drop 
of blood was shed in the adventure. King Sweyn 
was taken by cunning, and by a stratagem re- 
vealed to me in a dream." 

" Sit down, sit down," said Burislaf. " It is 
ill standing after a feast, and makes the head 


swim and the eyes weak. Sit down, and tell 
us how you trapped King Sweyn.'' 

So Sigvald sat down between Astrida and the 
Queen on the cross bench, and the King and 
the two other Princesses with them, and he told 
them the whole story, which, as they abeady 
know it, we will spare our readers. 

When the tale had come to an end, King 
Burislaf said, — 

"And when will King Sweyn come hither 
that w^e may have him in our power ? ^' 

" That," said Sigvald, " depends altogether on 
your majesty. If you will do as I advise. King 
Sweyn shall both come hither, and you and the 
Wends will be set free from that claim of 
tribute, for it is to him that you are asked to 
pay it, and besides, gain great honour.'' 

** Say on," said Burislaf ; " we are ready to 
hear, though at this hour of the night our head 
is wont to nod. Do you therefore, Astrida, who 
are the wisest of us, mark well what Sigvald 
says, and be sure you remember it all to-morrow 


" I shall be sure to remember it, father," said 
Astrida, whose blue eyes smiled on the manly 


Sigvald, and showed that they were now 
both on the same path and understood each 

" King Sweyn shall come hither ; '^ said Sig- 
vald, " but I will not bring him to be mocked 
and made a prisoner, to be maimed and 
thrown into a dungeon, as has been the fashion 
of your Wendish Kings. If he comes he shall 
come as a King to a splendid feast, guarded by 
three hundred Vikings, and every inch a King. 
He is my liege Lord in Denmark, though I am 
his host and captor in Jomsburg, and I will not 
bring him hither on any other terms.'' 

^' That is a proud bidding,'' said King Burislaf, 
who had already begun to nod. " Proceed, I 

^' King Sweyn shall come to a feast, indeed," 
said Sigvald, ** for it shall be his wedding feast. 
He is as eager to marry as I am, and he has 
fixed his choice on Gunnhilda, the second 
daughter of the King." 

Here Gunnhilda started as much as Prin- 
cesses in any age are allowed to start, and the 
Queen looked frightened. As for Burislaf, he 
only snored, for the strong mead had mastered 

VOL. I. 


hiniy while Astrida smiled as she thought what 
a clever, crafty man Sigvald was. 

"But suppose/' she said — ^for in her feihers 
absence of mind she was spokeswoman- 
" suppose we accept that as a fulj&Uing of the 
first condition, and that we suffer King Sweyii 
to wed my sister, what becomes of the second 
condition, how are we to be set free from 
this claim of tribute that King Sweyn has 
made ? '^ 

" Very easily," said Sigvald ; " I have 
thought of that, too, and this is what I think ; 
King Sweyn, when he marries Gunnhilda, must 
make her a morning gift the day after they are 
wedded, and his morning gift shall be this claim 
of tribute on the Wends, which his father 
Harold Bluetooth laid on, but which has never 
yet been paid. He will give up somethiug 
which is nothing worth to him, but worth 
everything to you Wends to be rid of." 

" What a jewel of a man you are," said 
Astrida ; " now I see it all as clear as day* I 
see that I shall be Lady of Jomsburg, a prouder 
title than that of Queen, while you, Gunnhilda 
will be Queen of Denmark, a throne on whicli 


any Princess of the North might be proud to 

" Yes/' said Gunnhilda ; " it would be a very 
proud thing, if it did not come on me quite so 
suddenly. Here am I, never thinking of mar- 
riage, and I am to be made a Queen, whether I 
will or no/' 

This was a very long speech for the second 
Princess to make; and as she uttered it she 
looked imploringly towards her mother. Those 
«tern, haughty lips parted for a moment only to 
utter in accents that chilled all love, — 

" No one asked me whether I liked it when I 
was given away to King Burislaf " 

Then Astrida went on, — 

" And when do you think King Sweyn will 
come 1 I am so anxious to see my royal 

"I have already told you," said SigvalJ, 
"that King Sweyn awaits your pleasure. He 
is eager to come himself, for all the band have 
told him of Gunnhilda's charms, eager to be 
married, and not least of all, eager to get home 
again. It had best be soon, or else the Danes 
may come hither to look for him, and then, 

K 2 


perhaps, there might be some talk of a reat\ 

'' I see it all as you see it, Sigvald,'' said 
Astrida, which we mark as the first time that 
she called him ** Sigvald/' and he marked it as 
well, and blushed just as much as a Viking and 
a man of honour was allowed to blush in those 
days, which was not often, and very little at a 

" The sooner," she went on, " this match takea 
place the better. There will be no peace for 
any one while this matter of King Sweyn is 

"After the morning meal to-morrow/' said 
Sigvald, " I mount and ride for Jomsburg ; on 
the second night from that expect me with 
King Sweyn to his marriage feast." 

"I said only to-day to my father," said 
Astrida, "I was sure there would soon be a feast 
which would consume all our winter stores, but 
I own I was not thinking of a royal marriage. 
But what our Butler and Marshal will now do, 
I am sure no one can tell. They will be at 
their wits' end, and we may have to move ta 
another Grange, as this is almost eaten out. 


But let them see to that, we Princesses and our 
women must look after our wedding clothes. 
Fortunately, my mother has pell, and bawdekyn 
and sammit, and cloth of gold enough to fit us 
both out like the daughters of a long line of 

Here King Burislaf started up, and we 
are sorry to say gave the back of hjs 
head a great knock against the wooden 

" What is all this,'' he cried, " which I seemed 
to hear between the humming of the mead iu 
my head? Pell, and bawdekyn and sammit, 
and a royal marriage, and King Sweyn coming 
hither 1 Astrida, mind you be ready to tell me 
all about it ; and now, Sigvald, let us go to bed. 
Beshrew me, if I recollect anything of what has 
happened this evening, except what you told us 
in the open hall, how you had caught King 
Sweyn, and had him fast in Jomsburg, awaiting 
our good pleasure/ ' 

And then, after the Queen and Princesses had 
retired amid the salutations of Sigvald, King 
Burislaf staggered off to bed, and Sigvald 
sought his chamber, where, if he had any time 


for reflection before sleep seized him, he must 
have been overjoyed at the success which had 
hitherto attended his enterprise to win Astrida's^ 




Next morning King Burislaf was up betimes. 
After his first heavy slumber he had a weight 
on his mind which could only be relieved by 
Astrida. He knew that he had missed some 
news of importance, and was impatient to hear 

Luckily, Astrida was as impatient to tell 
what had passed as he to hear. At early 
dawn, therefore, the father and daughter had 
met, and Astrida had told her story in the way 
most hkely to further her own plans, which were 
now to become Sigvald's wife. 

As she went to the conference with her 
father, she caught herself saying, — 

" Why, he is as tall and fair and strong as 
the Northmen's Sigurd Fafnirsbane, and as 
wise as Heimdall ; what more could a woman 
wish ? And as for King Sweyn, Sigvald has 


vanquished him once in wit, and will vanquish 
him again/' 

** What was all that about a royal marriage," 
said Burislaf, when they met> ''and pell and 
rich stuffs and feasts ? I really thought we 
had feasts enough lately/' 

" I told you only yesterday I felt sure we 
should soon have a much grander feast, and so 
it will be when King Sweyn weds Gunnhilda." 

" Sweyn marry Gunnhilda I '^ cried Burislaf. 
'' Well ! well ! I do just remember that Sigvald 
said something about it; and what did I 
say ? '' 

" Say ? " said Astrida ; " why, what all must 
say, that you thought it a very good match 
and quite to your mind." 

' Did I say as much as that ? What a thief 
mead is of a man's wits ! I don't remember a 
word of it ! " 

" Quite as much," said Astrida. 

" And what did your mother and Gunnhilda 

'' Gunnhilda said it was a match made rather 
in haste, and my mother rebuked her by say- 
ing it was always the way with royal marriages, 


aad that no one asked her if she hked it when 
she married you, father/' 

" That is very true/' said Burislaf. '' It was 
all done in a hurry, for we had war in the land 
with Harold Bluetooth, Sweyn's father, and we 
could not wait ; but a match is hke a pancake, 
the sooner it is made and swallowed the better. 
And now, Astrida, tell me what did you say ? " 

" Oh ! — I said — I said — I said I thought it 
would be^ a good match for all of us if King 
Sweyn gave up the claim to the tribute." 

" Give up the tribute ! I don't see how that 
goes with the match." 

^' It goes altogether with it, and is part and 
parcel of it. King Sweyn offers to give up the 
tribute as GunnhUda's moruing gift." 

" If that be so, I am all. for the marriage," 
said King Burislaf, with the air of a man relieved 
of a great load of care. " It is everything to 
be good friends with these Danes, and not to 
have them always invading our borders. If 
King Sweyn marries your sister and gives up 
the tribute there is no reason why there should 
not be peace for ever between the Wends and 


** Quite my view, father/' said Astrida ; " and 
when King Sweyn cornea and is married — '* 

" What then 1 " asked Burislaf. 

** Why then, I suppose, as Sigvald will have 
fulfilled both the conditions, that he will claim 
my hand, and I shall be married, too, and you 
will only have Geira left." 

** I am afraid it must be so," said Burislaf. 
" We have given our word, and words at least 
even kings can keep. I am sorry for you, but 
so it must be. I could have wished you a more 
noble husband." 

" I am quite content to take Sigvald as he is, 
father," said Astrida. " To my mind, the man 
who is bold enough and crafty enough to seize 
King Sweyn and bring him hither, is more 
worth having than all the Kings of the North.'' 

" If you are happy, I am happy," said the 
easy Burislaf. "Besides, so long as you are 
Lady of Jomsburg, we shall not lose you alto- 
gether, while Denmark is far to see. But now 
that you have told me everything, let us go to 
breakfast. Nothing now remains but to tell 
Sigvald that he may bring King Sweyn hither 
as soon as ever he can.'* 


But while Burislaf was making himself smart 
for his interview with Sigvald, Sigvald and 
Astrida had met, and she had told him all that 
had passed. Of course he did not enter into- 
that lady's bower, which in those ages was in 
the case of unmarried women almost as sacred 
in the West as in the East ; but love is just the 
same in all ages, and laughed at locksmiths, 
and parents and guardians just as heartily in 
tlie tenth centurj^ as he does in the nineteenth. 
Sigvald and Astrida met, therefore — where 
we cannot tell ; but there was perfect intelli- 
gence between them, and in that assurance 
Sigvald went to breakfast with the Wendish 

** We have thought over what you said last 
night," said Burislaf, with the most barefaced 
hypocrisy ; " and we have well weighed your 
offer on the part of King Sweyn. Tell him 
that he is heartily welcome on Wendish soil,. 
and that we are willing to make this match 
with our daughter Gunnhilda, if he will first 
consent to forego that claim to tribute which 
his father made/' 

" I will bear your message to the King,*' said 


Sigvald ; " and in two nights expect us back to 
the wedding feast.'* 

" Two nights ; " said King Burislaf, " that is 
but a short space. There are clothes to be made, 
not to speak of the ale and mead and meat that 
must be procured." 

" King Sweyn bade me say," said Sigvald, 
^* that he was eager to get home, as well he might 
be, seeing how he parted from his people. The 
•Queen's waiting-women must stitch their fingers 
sore, and the King's thralls scour the country to 
bring in beeves and sheep ; the King's huntsmen 
must search the forest, and his fishermen the 
I'ivers. There is good store of mead and ale 
in the cellars of the King, and besides all 
this there will be so much love at this banquet 
that all shortcomings will be forgotten. Your 
majesty will bear it in mind that as soon as I 
liave brought King Sweyn hither and he 
has given up the tribute I am free to claim 
the Princess's hand, and be assured I mean to 
-claim it.'^ 

" I will bear it in mind," said King Burislaf, 
graciously, " but remember you shall not have 
Astrida if Sweyn does not give up the tribute." 


** I am quite ready to agree to that, and for 
that reason I beg your majesty to say nothing 
of the second marriage till King Sweyn has 
uttered his mind about the tribute ; say nothing 
about me or Astrida till he has spoken out. A& 
soon as that happens I will come forward and 
claim her hand/^ 

" Be it so," said the King, and so those two 
parted. Sigvald took horse and rode off, and 
King Burislaf held long conferences with his 
Butler and Marshal, while Gangrel Speedifoot 
scoured the country to bring in stores of mead 
and ale and meat. How the Queen's waiting- 
women sewed and stitched and how the kitchen 
chimneys of the Grange smoked we forbear to 
tell. Suffice it to say, that when the evening of 
the second night came everything was ready for 
the bridal banquet. 

During this time King Sweyn had sat moodily 
in Jomsburg considering his hard fate; snatched 
away from his realm and made to marry against 
his will, he was in no very good humour. 
Nothing that the Vikings could do gave him any 
pleasure ; he showed no fear, but little joy, and 
it was a relief to him when he heard by the 


-warder's horn that Sigvald had re-entered the 

But eager as he was to know the news it was 
quite beneath his royal position, and, indeed, 
beneath that of any free man in those days, to 
show any curiosity about his fate. He and Sigvald 
met therefore some time before the supper, at 
which all announcements were inevitably made ; 
but they talked of the weather or the ships or 
the crops, or whatever was most indifferent. 

But when the boards were cleared in the hall 
Sigvald rose up as before, drank the King's 
health with the usual formality, and passed the 
horn. Then the King drank to Sigvald and the 
Vikings, and while the mead went round waited 
for what Sigvald had to say. 

As soon as the hum of toast-drinking had sub- 
sided, Sigvald rose and said : 

" I have now, King Sweyn, to tell you how my 
errand to King Burislaf has fared. I found him 
well and the fair Gunnhilda well, and I did not 
fail to plead your suit for her hand with all the 
power that I could. The end of it all is, to make 
a long story short, that King Burislaf is ready 
to give you his daughter on one condition." 


Here he paused, and King Sweyn caught him 
\ip eagerly, 

" And what is that ? '' 

" His condition is an easy one," said Sigvald. 
'^ Easy for such a King as he to make, and easier 
«till for such a mighty King as you to grant. In 
the early days of your father, Harold Bluetooth, 
there was, as we all know, and, indeed, you your- 
self have named it, some claim of a tax or 
tribute which your father said the Wends were 
bound to pay, and which the Wends refused." 

Here King Sweyn, says the chronicler, turned 
.as red as blood, and was swollen with wrath. 

" I will never give up that tribute," he said, 
" which I have besides lately asked for ; a King 
should never go back on his word/' 

" The King says," Sigvald went on, " he will 
never go back in his word. Some words arc 
uttered to be given up, idle words, unreal 
claims, rights as some men call them, like 

" I say it again,'' said Sweyn, " I will never 
go back on my word." 

"Better that," said Sigvald fiercely, "than 
not to go back to Denmark." 


" How SO, Sigvald ? " said Sweyn in the same 
tone ; " Dost thou threaten me, thy liege 
Lord r' 

** Liege Lord in Denmark, but equal to a king 
in Jomsburg," said Sigvald. " I make no threat. 
So long as you are with us. King Sweyn, we wiD 
treat you like a king, but then Jomsburg is not 
Denmark, nor is the yellow East Sea the blue 
Sound or Belt. Far pleasanter are the beechen 
woods of Schleswig and the islands than the fir 
forests of the Wends. Unless the King yields 
this little matter of the tribute he will have to 
stay long in Jomsburg, the winter over perhaps. 
Not to mention the loss of such a match and 
the third part of Wendland after Burislafs 

" How sol" said King Sweyn, " I never heard 
of that third part of Wendland." 

" Because your majesty is so hasty,'' said Sig- 
vald. " Had you waited I was coming to that. 
King Burislaf has no son nor male heir. After 
his death his three daughters will share his realm 
between them, and if Denmark get that third of 
Wendland which lies nearest to Denmark, that, 
methinks, would be worth ten times this tribute. 


which is only a claim after all and has never 
been paid." 

'* I never thought of that," said King Sweyn. 

^ It is a sad thing when men will not think," 
said Sigvald ; " worst of all when kings who ought 
to think most think least, or not at all." 

" I am willing to think over it," said the king. 

" And not only to think of it but to do it," 
said Sigvald ; " and, while I am about it, there is 
another thing that you might think of, and 
that is this, kings when they marry princesKes 
of royal race and when that king is of great 
lineage are wont to give their brides on the 
morrow of the marriage a morning gift What 
better morning gift could King Sweyn give to 
Gunnhilda, Burislaf s daughter, than this tribute 
which he claims? That would be indeed a 
royal way of giving up the tribute." 

" I am willing to make the match on tho«^^ 
terms," said King Sweyn, "so that in all ihih'^a 
I am treated as a king, and not pushed fi4^1<l<^ 
into a corner by Burislaf" 

" That you may rely on," said Sigvald ; '' J sh4 
three hundred of our bravest men will go witli 
you to your wedding, and be your body guard, 

you L ^> 


before two nights are out. All is settled and 
arranged, and when you have given up the 
tribute and have returned to Jomsburg with 
your queen, we Vikings of Jomsburg will speed 
you hence to Denmark with a squadron of 
thirty ships." 

Then he went on : 

"There is yet another thing too that you 
must think of. It will be more to your honour 
if your father-in-law is a king who pays tax and 
tribute to no man, so that in giving it up you 
will only increase your own grandeur, for those 
kings are surely greater who pay no tribute. For 
these and many other reasons you must see that 
this match, so far from being unequal, is one 
which will add to your glory and renown." 

" You speak so forcibly and with such per- 
suasion, Sigvald," said Sweyn, " that I say out- 
right that this match is much to my mind, and 
now I again say let us think no more of it to- 
night. Ho ! butler, fill up my horn with mead." 

So King Sweyn and the Vikings spent that 
night in wassail and revelry, and when they 
went to bed there was scarce one of them that 
did not stagger, except Beorn, the Welshman. 


"Whatever I hare said of Si^cui aud Lis 
breaking the law," he said ^o iiiinseK, "* I mast 
own that no man is his match in wh. Thmk of 
carrying King Swejm off aiid maiing Tittb marnr 
BurislaTs daoghter, asd all thai Sigrald maj wei 
the fisdr Astrida. It is a mad world, bo it Las 
l^een and so it wiD be. Women with their 
pretty &ces turn it upade down- I thaiik all 
the gods that no woman cares to many me, jnst 
as I care to many no woman-'" 

With which sage reflections the Teteran lay 
down^ turned over on his side, and was soon 
^ound asleep. 




Two days after, as they had promised, King 
Sweyn rode out of Jomsburg with Sigvald and 
Thorkell the Tall by his side and three hundred 
Vikings at his back. Never had such a gallant 
band of horsemen been seen in Wendland. 

As the night began to fall they came to 
Burislaf 's grange, and the flutter which their 
arrival caused at that court may be better ima- 
gined than described. 

As for Burislaf himself he was already seated 
in his high seat in the hall, a position which so 
well became him. To tell the truth he and his 
whole household were rather alarmed at the 
prospect of entertaining the hereditary foe of 
their house, even when he came as a friend. 
They had caged the lion and were afraid to look 
at him. 

The queen and the princesses, too, were in 


the hall on the cross-bench on the dais, the two 
brides with wimples over their heads and long 
veils which quite concealed their features. 

Whether Gunnhilda shed tears at the pros- 
pect of leaving her home we cannot say, but we 
are sure that though Astrida*s heart beat high 
she shed no tears. 

The King's chiefs were on his side of the hall, 
^ne himdred in number, and room was left for 
King Sweyn and as many of his Vikings oppo- 
site. The rest of the three hundred were 
feasted with men of equal rank among the 

As for the butler and the marshal, they re- 
ceived the King, led him to a room by himself, 
held fine linen for him to wipe his hands and 
face, and brought him warm water in a silver 

When all was ready the warders sounded their 
horns, all the hounds bayed and barked, the 
steeds snorted and neighed in their stalls, and 
all the world around Burislaf s grange knew that 
the mighty King Sweyn was on his way to his 
wedding feast. 

Into the hall strode the moody King, followed 



closely by Sigvald and the rest of the Viking 
chiefs, of whom only Bui again had remained to 
keep order and rule in Jomsburg. Before him 
went the marshal and the butler. 

When he had gone so far as half-way up the 
hall opposite to the King's high seat, Burislaf 
rose, and without moving from his high seat^ 
said, in a loud voice — 

" Welcome, King Sweyn, on Wendish land \ 
Welcome to your bridal feast ! '' 

Without bowing, Sweyn replied — 

" Hail, Burislaf, King of the Wends. Right 
glad am I to find myself under your roof." 

"Take your seat opposite, you and your 
men,'' said Burislaf, " and eat and drink and be 
merry. When your hunger and thirst are over 
we will speak of the wedding." 

So the two kings sat and feasted, and the* 
banquet was like any other banquet in those 
days, except that more meat was consumed and 
more mead drank in a given period of time than 
the butler and the marshal had ever heard of or 
seen before. 

When all this eating and drinking was over, 
the boards were cleared and removed by the- 

HOW SWEYN AND SGTAU) wiatE MJLiaaiir*, 19^ 

thralls, ^^^ ^^^ 1^ bisiiiesB 6F the eTening 


Then Sigyald, who sat next to Kii^ Swejn 
on his right, rose and said — 

'' It is well known to you. King Borislaf, and 
to you also, King Sweyn, why we are all here. 
King Sweyn has heard, as we all have heard, of 
the beauty of the Princess Gunnhilda. It is not 
good for a man, least of all for a king, to be 
without a wife, and so he has turned his eyes 
where good women are to be found. This is 
why he has come so far from his own land to 
seek a wife in Wendland, and it is another mark 
of respect to you, King Burislaf, that instead of 
making his bridal feast in Denmark and baring 
the bride brought to him, he has come to your 
grange to keep this feast here, and then to bring 
her home himself. For these three clay«, Kinp; 
Burislaf, the Princess Gunnhilda hM Wn ^<h 
trothed to King Sweyn ; and though tJi^ t(mtt- 
ship has been short, there k an old nfsw whi<^/fr 
says, ' the sooner the better hr * f^CtrA thit^^' 
How say you, then, Kin<^ Burl^Uf, <^hh\] ff\y li^j<A 
lord in Denmark, Kinjf Stw^yA h^^A^ h^/^4 y/'rtrf 
daughter Gunnhilda tA w;fe '("^ 



"What dower will King Swejn give my 
daughter ? '' said Burislaf, *' and what shall be 
her mornmg gift 1 " 

"She shall have Moen, and Falster, and 
Langeland, and a third of the King^s dues at 
Oresund for her dower/* answered Sigvald; 
" and for her morning gift King Sweyn will be- 
have right nobly ; but for that matter I would 
rather he spoke for himself." 

" How say you, King Sweyn 1 '^ said Burislaf ; 
" shall my daughter, if she marries you, have all 
these islands and dues for her dower, and will 
you take her to wife by the most binding rites 
which you Danes respect 1 '' 

"I am ready," said King Sweyn, "to take 
her as my wife, and to grant her those islands 
and dues as her dower, and to wed her with 
Thor's holy hammer, the rite in which we Danes 
still put most faith, for our Christianity is as 
young as yours. But if I do all this^ what shall 
Gunnhilda have as her portion V 

"That/' said Burislaf, "is soon answered. 
The line of my father has ended on the spindle- 
side. I have no male heir, no son, no brother, 
no uncle, and according to our laws, when I die 


my three daughters will share my kingdom be- 
tween them. Gunnhilda's portion will be a third 
of all Wendland. Is that enough T" 

" It is," said Sweyn ; " and on these terms I 
am willing to make the match." 

" But one thing is still unsaid/' said Burislaf ; 
*Hhe morning gift, which by our customs the 
bride must have. Whether you have it or no, 
' we must have it, for without it no marriage is 
binding on the Wends. How say you, then, as 
to the morning gift, King Sweyn ? " 

" We have an old saw which says," replied 
King Sweyn, " that there is always a short cut to 
the house of a good friend. I little thought when 
I left Denmark so suddenly that I should take 
this long journey, least of all that I should so 
soon find myself friends with thee. King Buris- 
laf. But so it has been. This long way has 
proved a short cut to friendship ; and though 
there, has been sometimes enmity between our 
houses and our folk, I am ready to forget and 
forgive all those former feuds. My father, 
Harold Bluetooth, as is well known, claimed 
tribute from the Wends, and there are some 
here at least who know that it is not so long ago 



since I thought of demanding it. I think be- 
tween father-in-law and son-in-law there should 
neither be tax nor tribute, and that the son-in- 
law is a grander man if his father-in-law is free 
from all tribute. At the same time, there is 
the claim. What I will do, therefore, King 
Burislaf, in the matter of that morning gift of 
which you have spoken is to declare here in the 
presence of all these witnesses, my men and 
yours, that as soon as I am wedded to Gunn- 
hilda I will give up all and every claim to tri- 
bute from the Wends." 

A roar of applause followed from what may 
be called the Wendish side of the house. To 
tell the truth, the Wends knew they were no 
match for the Danes in fight, and every man 
just as much as King Burislaf blessed the happy 
chance which had brought King Sweyn to seek 
a wife among the Wends, and to give up the 
tax which not a month before King Sweyn had 
demanded so insultingly. 

'* The King gives up the tribute ! " " No tri- 
bute to the Danes ! " rang round the hall, and 
the excitement was intense. 

" That I think is a* right royal morning gift,"" 


said King Burislaf, when order was restored. " I 
think before we proceed further, as talking ia 
dry work, we had better have a horn of mead 
in memory of King Sweyn's gracious words." 

Round went the horns, and they were speedily 
drained, amidst shouts of "Long live King 
Sweyn ! '' " No tribute to the Danes ! ''' and 
nothing could now seem fairer than the pro- 
spects of the feast. 

When the uproar died away King Burislaf 
rose again and said — 

" As all that is needful has thus been settled 
by word of mouth in the sight and hearing of 
many witnesses, we will now proceed to the 
Avedding. Yonder sits the bride on the cross- 
bench. May it please you, King Sweyn, to 
hallow the bride.'' 

Then a procession was formed, in which the 
marshal went first and the taper-bearers, then 
came King Burislaf, then King Sweyn, then Sig- 
vald, playing the part of best man, then Thorkell 
the Tall, and so on, Wends and Vikings ia 
double file in the order of their rank. 

Thrice they walked round the hall, and on 
the third round halted before the dais on. 


which sat the Queen and the Princesses on th^ 

Here a difficulty occurred, for there sat twc:::^ 
brides both closely veiled, and both dressed alik^» 
in vifgin white. Hitherto they had escape( 
Sweyn's notice. As they caught his eye hi 
turned and said, half out loud, to Sigvald — 

" Be there two brides, or do I see double r 
though we have drank no mead to speak of.^' 

" There are two brides," said Sigvald. " That 
will be made clear presently. Gunnhilda is she 
that sits on the right hand of the Queen in the 
place of honour.*' 

Then Burislaf called to the Marshal : " Where 
is the holy hammer ? — produce it." 

Then the Marshal drew forth from his robes, 
or what passed muster for robes, an ancient axe 
of flint, one of those stone implements which 
we call celts, but which were then supposed to 
be the thunderbolts of Thor, and tokens of his 
maul with which he smashed the skulls of the 

" This rite," said Burislaf, turning to King 
Sweyn, " is common to both our races. In these 
days we know not what we worship, for as you 


well said, Christianity is young in the Norths 
And so the old form lingers, though few still be- 
lieve in the ancient gods. Whether it be Peran 
or Thor, both Danes and Wends worshipped the 
same God of Thunder under two names. Hallow 
the bride, therefore, with the Holy Maul, and so 
take Gunnhilda to thyself for thy lawful wife.'' 

King Sweyn took the flint axe, and stepping 
up to the veiled figure on the right of the Queen, 
laid it on the lap of the bride, and then called 
out in a loud voice — 

"With this Holy Maul, I, Sweyn, King of 
Denmark, take thee, Gunnhilda, Burislafs 
daughter, to be my wedded wife.'' 

As he said this the warders blew their horns, 
and the harpers struck up their wild minstrelsy, 
of which the reader has already heard. When 
the savage melody died away King Burislaf 
called out — 

" Now are Sweyn, Harold's son. King of Den- 
mark, and Gunnhilda, Burislaf's daughter, Prin- 
cess of the Wends, man and wife." 

Thunders of applause followed this announce- 
ment, in the course of which the Marshal re- 
moved the Holy Maul from the bride's lap, and 


held it in his hand, as if ready for further 

All this time the bride sat motionless, and 
made no sign. Her part in the ceremony was 
purely passive. In this way brides were, as it 
was called in old times just as much as in 
modern, "given away" by their fathers. In 
the earliest times brides were stolen from their 
homes and carried oflF like captives by suitors. 
Next they were sold by their fathers, and then 
given away. In modern times they are as often 
sold as given away, but it is the fashion to call 
that a gift which in reahty is too often a sale. 

As the ritualistic part of the ceremony was 
over, and what was called the bride's feast was 
about to begin. King Sweyn turned to go back 
to his seat, but Burislaf touched him and 
^aid : 

" Bide a while, King Sweyn, we have still to 
wed the second bride." 

" One bride is enough at a time for any man," 
said King Sweyn, whose wits at this period of 
the evening were anything but clear. " I can- 
not marry both your daughters.'' 

"It is not needed," said Burislaf, with a 


•chuckle. " We have already found a bridegroom 
for our eldest daughter." 

"I see no other bridegroom/^ said King 

"And yet he stands by you, shoulder to 
shoulder/' said Burislaf. 

King Sweyn turned again, and saw to his 
amazement Sigvald in the act of reaching out 
his hand to the Marshal to take the Holy 

" Sigvald the bridegroom ! '' he exclaimed. 
^' I never heard of it. He keeps his counsel 
-close. Is there guile under this also ? " 

" There is no guile/' King Sweyn, said Buris- 
laf. Astrida and Sigvald have been betrothed, 
«o to speak, much longer than Gunnhilda and 

" I do not understand it/' said Sweyn. 

" Hush ! " said Burislaf. " Do not break the 
bride's peace. See, he lays the Holy Maul on 
her lap, and hallows her as his wedded 
wife ! " 

" I see it al]/' said Sweyn, " but I do not 
understand it ; " but his words were lost in the 
shouts of applause with which the Vikings and 


Wends alike answered Burislafs second an- 

" Now are Sigvald, Harold's son, Captain of 
Jomsburg, and Astrida, Burislafs daughter, 
Princess of the Wends, man and wife.'' 

Then followed the brides' feast, as it was 
called, a mere form, in which they still sat on 
the cross bench, and were served with meat 
and drink, which they could but taste under 
their long veils, while the men looked on, and 
the minstrels played. As soon as it was over, 
they, with the rest of the women, retired for 
the night to the women's apartments, first 
paying the ''bride's fee" to the Marshal, and 
their waiting women for their attendance at 
the ceremony. The bridegrooms saw no more 
of their brides that night, for, according to the 
old usage, though lawfully wedded, they were 
not " bedded," as the phrase was, till the 
bridal or bride's ride had taken place, in which, 
when the marriage was celebrated out of his 
own house, the bridegroom brought his bride 
solemnly home. On this occasion the home of 
both the bridegrooms was taken to be the 
Castle of Jomsburg. 


After the women had departed, the men still 
kept up the feast till far on into the night ; and 
it seemed to Burislafs butler that the end of 
the world, so far as quaffing mead was con- 
cerned, had surely come. Even King Sweyn 
seemed to have recovered his surprise at hear- 
ing there was a second bridegroom, and that 
Sigvald, in the hall. No doubt he felt as eager 
as the giant in the Edda to lift the bride's 
veil, and see what she was like ; but even he 
was restrained by the manners of the time, 
and whatever curiosity he felt, kept it all to 

All things must have an end, and so had this 
Avedding feast. What Burislaf was to do during 
the winter with his empty cellar and larder, 
literally eaten out of house and home, does not 
concern us. Suffice it to say, that he had 
married both his daughters, one of them to a 
king, and another to a man who had proved 
himself the boldest and most skilful warrior of 
his time. He had, besides, struck up a friend- 
ship with Sweyn, got rid of the tribute, and 
was no longer plagued with periodical fears of 
^ Danish invasion. As he lay down to rest, he 

VOL. I. ^ 


might well chuckle and congratulate himself on 
his good fortune in having such a friend as 
Sigvald. Nor had Sigvald cause to complain. 
He had changed the law at Jomsburg with 
little trouble, married the woman of his choice, 
and done that deed in carrying oflF King Sweyn, 
and bringing him to King Burislaf, which would 
for ever make his name famous in the North. 
What more could he wish, except that King 
Sweyn might not envy him the possession of 
Astrida, and might not know all the circum- 
stances which had led to his captivity. What 
Sweyn thought is unknown. After all his mead 
he slept, no doubt, sound and well. 



Next morning every one was up betimes. 
After the morning meal the brides were to be 
given away by King Burislaf to their husbands, 
and then they were to mount and ride for 

When King Sweyn and Sigvald met, it was 
plain to see that there was some coolness be- 
tween them. Never, even on the morning after 
he had been carried off, had the King seemed 
so ill at ease. Sigvald, on his part, had some- 
thing plainly on his mind. 

" They stare at one another like two bears in 
a pitfall, Vagn,'' said Beorn. " Were not Sweyn 
so completely in our power, they would soon 
come to blows.*' 

Sweyn, like kings in all times, had little to 
do on such an occasion. Had he been a king 
now-a-days, in all probability he would have 

p 2 


smoked, and so consoled himself; but as there 
was then no such resource, he loitered about, 
and did nothing till breakfast, while Sigvald was 
busy looking after his horses, and getting all 
things ready for their long ride. 

At last the morning meal came, and with it 
the critical moment when the bridegrooms were 
to see the brides unveiled. Unless a man in 
those times had seen his intended before the 
wedding day, he was in the position, as Beorn 
the Welchman irreverently remarked, of a man 
buying a pig in a poke. He might be bound 
for ever to the ugliest and loathliest woman in 
the world, and in that plight was King Sweyn. 

Now it could not be denied that Gunnhilda 
was a pretty girl, only she was not so pretty as 
Astrida, who was really beautiful. She was tall, 
and dark, and majestic as her mother, while 
Gunnhilda was simply a pretty likeness of her 
short and squat sire. She would have passed 
muster well enough had Astrida been away; 
but there Astrida was, and there was no deny- 
ing her superior charms. Added to this, Gunn- 
hilda was believed in the family to be as stupid 
as Astrida was wise. 


When King Burislaf saw King Sweyn loitering 
about the court-yard in that Ustless way, he 
went up to him without ceremony, and hoped 
he had slept well, just for all the world like a 
courteous prince of the present century. We 
say courteous, because there are some kings, 
alas ! even in this century, though not English 
ones, whose manners and address are anything 
but courteous. 

" Though not like Freyr," said Sweyn, "who 
could not sleep for nights and nights till he had 
got Gerda to wife, I may still say that I have 
been awake long before dawn. I am eager, to 
tell you the truth, to see the bride, and to 
acknowledge the beauty of my queen.'' 

" The morning meal will be served at once,'' 
said Burislaf, " and then your majesty will have 
your heart's desire." 

When he had said that, he turned away, and 
said to himself : 

" I wonder what he will think of her when 
he sees her ? " 

"The morning meal is served," cried the 
butler; and the two Kings and the Vikings, 
every man of whom was as sharp set as though 


they had never put morsel into their mouths, 
streamed into the hall. 

"If King Sweyn were hungry/' says the 
chronicler, "his eyes were hungrier still to 
behold his bride, of whose loveliness Sigvald 
had told him so much, all which he had taken 
on trust/' 

His first care, therefore, was to look towards 
the (jross-bench, where the Queen, and the 
princesses, or brides, now sat in the light of day 
without wimple or veil of any kind. The even- 
ing before, still as death, they were now as 
lively as larks, and chatted to one another as 
only sisteris can. 

While Sweyn was watching them, and taking 
the measure of their charms, others in the hall 
were watching him. 

" Mark his face, boy,'' said Beom to Vagn ; 
" he grows as red as blood, like all that family. 
Other men turn white ; but the Knytlings 
always show their wrath by a red face and a 
swollen look. See, he swells as if his kirtle 
could not hold him. Take my word for it, he 
feels that he has been cheated in this wedding 
by the Captain, who picked out the fairest 


Tnaiden for himself, and left the less fair for him, 
the King/^ 

" He may feel wrathful/' said Vagn, " but he 
^are not show it in words. He is quite in our 

" True ; but for all that, I am much mis- 
taken if he does not show it in words ere we 
leave Burislars house." 

'' So the meal went on as all morning meals, 
only it was more ample. When it came to an 
end the horses were ready, and nothing remained 
to Burislaf but to give his daughters solemnly 
away, to lead them out of the house, as it was 
called, and to hand them over to their husbands. 

*' May it please you. King Sweyn," he said, 
■*'and you, Sigvald, Harold's son, to approach 
the dais, and look upon your brides ? " 

Up rose King Sweyn without a word. 
When he reached the dais, he stared savagely 
at both the princesses, and glared in anger, 
saying never a word. 

" Say, King Sweyn, is the ^ueen fair to look 
on ? " said Burislaf, who, perhaps, thought that 
Xrunnhilda, being like himself, must be more 
beautiful than Astrida. 


" Fair is the maiden/' said Sweyn, swallow- 
ing down his wrath ; " fair enough, were it not 
that a fairer than she sits by her ! ** 

Then, turning to Sigvald,he said in a way most 
shocking for a king, a bridegroom, and a lover : 

" Why told you me not, Sigvald, Harold's 
son, that Astrida was the fairer of the two ? " 

"Because, King Sweyn," said Sigvald, 
proudly, "because Gunnhilda was then the 
fairest of King Burislaf 's unpledged daughters 
when I wooed her in your name. Long before 
that, Astrida was betrothed to me ; and when 
a woman is once betrothed, King Sweyn, you 
know she is not free to become the choice of 
any other man." 

" And pray/' said King Sweyn, whose blood 
seemed now up, " pray what morning gift are 
you, Sigvald, Harold's son, to give to Astrida for 
giving herself over, and all her charms, to 
you ? " 

This question seemed to take Sigvald un- 
awares, and he paused for a reply ; but, to the 
amazement of all, his bride came to his relief. 

" King Sweyn, Harold's son," said Astrida, 
haughtily, " asks what morning gift Sigvald is 


to give to me, his wife. Let me tell you. King, 
this is one of those gifts which has been paid 
beforehand : Sigvald has given it me already/' 

" And pray what was it 1 " said King Sweyn, 

" I am ready to utter it ; and all the more, 
because it concerns yourself, King Sweyn,'* said 
Astrida. " Sigvald, Harold's son, paid me mj- 
morning gift; when he seized you, and carried 
you oflF from Denmark, and brought you here, 
and married you to my sister, who is too good 
for a king who was so worsted in a struggle of 
wit and daring. Besides all that, it would 
have bojBn quite gift enough for me had he 
only forced you, as he has, to forego all claim 
to tribute on the Wends." 

" So those were the conditions," said King 
Sweyn, with the air of a man who at last felt 
all the humiliation of his position. 

" They were. King Sweyn," said Sigvald, 
" All that I was to do to win Astrida's hand ; 
and, against all hope, I have done it, I alone* 
You would never have heard these tKings, lord, 
unless you had asked questions. But as you 
have asked them, you have had your answer. 


Now answer another, which I am forced to put 
to you, King Sweyn. Will you take Gunnhilda, 
and treat her in every way as your queen, on 
your word as a king, and go back to Denmark 
straightway with all honour 1 or, will you give 
her up, and stay here in King Burislaf *s hands, 
or come back with us to Jomsburg, and stay 
there with us, and not go back at all to Den- 
mark 1 " 

" A plain question,'' said King Sweyn, " and 
it shall be as plainly answered. No one can 
strive against superior force. I will treat 
Gunnhilda as becomes a queen in every way, 
and I will go back to Denmark. Now let us 
ride to Jomsburg as soon as may be/' 

All this time King Burislaf had stood by as 
speechless as his queen, while every man in the 
hall looked on and listened. When Sweyn had 
uttered these last words, the Wendish king 
stepped forward, and said : 

"We have heard from Astrida's lips the 
morning gift which Sigvald has paid her. But 
we have not heard yours in proper form. 
We know since last night what it is to be, but 
«ow deign to utter it ? " 


Thus challenged, King Swejn looked fiercely 
at King Burislaf, and said : 

" About this there is a long story, deign to hear 
it, King BurLslaf. Once on a time there was a 
folk of eagles, and hard by their land dwelt a 
a folk of tits. The tits were small, and of no 
repute ; they lived on dirt and filth, while the 
eagles lived on the fish of the sea, and the fowl of 
the air, and the beasts of the field. But all at 
once the tits went to war with the eagles in 
their pride, and crossed the border ; but they 
<50uld not do much harm, they were so small. 
For all that the eagles were angry, and crossed 
the border into the tits' land, and wasted it, but 
they could not live on dirt as the tits lived, nor 
could they catch the tits, they were so small, 
and flew so fast. So they retired to their own 
laud, and said : ' This land is nothing worth, 
and the tits are poor and wretched. Just to 
say that we have been here, we will make the tits 
pay tribute, though they have nothing to pay it 
with.' So it went on for years and years, the 
eagles claiming, and the tits never paying 
tribute. At last there came one eagle fleeter 
than the rest, whose wings were stronger and 


longer, and he said : * I will make these tits pay 
tribute/ so he sent a message to the tit-king, and 
said : * Pay me that tribute, or I will destroy 
thee/ But the tits sent no tribute. It so 
happened that the tit-king had a friend, called 
the Pox, and they took counsel together, and 
the fox said : 'If I bring thee the king of the 
eagles prisoner, wilt thou give me thy daughter 
to wife/ To that the tit-king said : *Aye/ So 
the fox went craftily, as only foxes can go, and 
found the king of the eagles asleep, and carried 
him off to tit-land, and showed him to the tit- 
king, and said : ^ Marry the tit-king's daughter, 
or spend your life for ever in a cage, and give 
up the tribute which the tits have never paid/ 
So the king of the eagles said : ' What good can 
come of a match when one mate is an eagle and 
the other a tit ? All the same, sooner than live 
all my life in a cage, I will marry the tit- 
princess/ So he married her, and was set free, 
and gave up the tax and returned to his own 
land. That is the story of the eagle-king and 
the tit-king. King Burislaf, and I say, like the 
eagle-king, * though my wings are long and 
strong, they are of no use to me unless I am 



free to fly whither I will, and so I marry your 
daughter, and give up the tribute to her as her 
morning gift ; but whether the eagle-king and 
the tit-princess Uve together long and happily is 
more than I can tell, for when birds are ill-mated 
they do not thrive, and it is an old saw, ' that 
birds of a feather flock most together,* and so no 
doubt it has been with you and Sigvald." 

" Let us not prolong the war of words," said 
Burislaf. "You came hither in peace, King 
Sweyn, and in peace you shall return. It is 
true that Sigvald has wrought all that Astrida 
said ; but Gunnhilda and Geira were the only two 
of my daughters left, for Astrida was as good 
as given to Sigvald before you ever set foot in 
Jomsburg. As for eagles and tits, I know not 
what you mean. We Wends have often held 
our own against you Danes, and so we will again. 
It is not so long since the Danish eagle flew like 
a tit before the army of the Emperor Otho, who 
is an eagle indeed. But, as I have said, let there 
be an end of this. Go in peace, and take 
Gunnhilda with you. She will make you a good 
wife ; and, as for Sigvald, though you are his 
liege-lord in Denmark, here, on Wendish soil, he 


is your equal, and in every way worthy to be 
the brother-in-law of the King of Denmark." 

With these words, he took his daughters bj 
their right and left hands, leading them out of 
the hall in that way. As they passed the door- 
sill, he turned and said to Sweyn and Sigvald, 
who followed close behind : 

" With these hands I lead my daughters out 
of the house, that I may give them to thee, 
Sweyn, Harold's son. King of Denmark, and ta 
thee, Sigvald, Harold's son, Captain of Joms- 
burg. Take them, and be good to them, as they 
will be bonny and buxom to both of you, and 
now may all the gods, both the old and the 
new, speed you and them on your way." 

Then Sweyn and Sigvald each took their 
wife's right hand in theirs, and, leading them to 
their palfreys, put them up into the saddle, each 
saying as he did so ; 

" Now are you, Gunnhilda, and now are you,^ 
Astrida, my lawful wife, and no other.'' 

Next all the Vikings mounted, and Burislaf 
and his chiefs mounted too, and they rode off 
as hard as they could on their bridal procession 
to Jomsburg. 


Half way between Burislafs Grange and 
the Burg, King Burislaf turned and rode back 
with his men, but the rest rode on ever faster 
and faster till they neared Jomsburg, when the 
ride became a race between the two bridegrooms 
and their brides, which could first pass the gate^ 
into the Vikings' stronghold. 

Here, too, fortune was against King Sweyn 
and for Sigvald. The Viking Captain distanced 
the King in the race, but men marked it as a 
token that Sigvald himself was beaten by As- 
trida, who at the last moment pressed her pal- 
frey on, and just got through the gate before 
him. > 

" Sigvald for this once rules the roost over 
Sweyn,'* said Beorn to Vagn ; " but the end of 
this race is a sign that Astrida will rule over 
Sigvald, crafty and deep withal though he be. 
Depend on it, in this case, too, the grey mare 
will be the better horse." 

That night, again, there was a great feast in 
the Vikings' hall, and theKing and Sigvald sat 
over against one another in their high seats, the 
King still keeping the seat of honour. Side by 
iside with them sat Gunnhilda and Astrida^ and 


it was remarked that King Swejn, having vented 
his wrath, was in a better temper at night than 
he had been in the morning. Whether it was 
that the black cloud had passed away, or that he 
thought it best to be on his good behaviour so 
long as he was still in the Vikings' power, 
certain it is that he was gentle and gracious, and 
spoke as kindly to his Queen at meat, as though 
she had been the true choice of his heart. 

When the meal was over, Sigvald rose, and 
said : 

"I have now accomplished all that I have 
undertaken to do. Betrothed and married King 
Sweyn to a fair princess of one of the best houses 
in the North, and at the same time set the 
Wends free from tribute, and so made King 
Burislaf a mightier man, and a better father-in- 
law to both of us. It is true also that I have 
got a fair princess for my own wife, the very 
sight of whom will prove to this gallant company 
how good a thing it was to do away our law 
against marriage. What I have now to say, is 
to ask King Sweyn to remember our farmer 
friendship, to forget any cause of quarrel which 
we may lately have given him, and to feel sure 


that every man of this company would be 
williug to follow him to the death. I now call 
on you all to drink to the health of King 
Sweyn and Queen Gunnhilda, and to wish them 
s, safe and speedy voyage to their kingdom." 

With a great uproar the horns were drained, 
and when it died away, King Sweyn rose, and 
said : 

" I cannot say that there have not happened 
things lately which have made me rather look 
to the new hatred than to the old love which 
was between me and Sigvald. Perhaps Sigvald 
may have thought that so long as his father 
Strut-Harold Hved I held pledges of his in my 
hand, and even now he may believe that I would 
revenge on the sire the wrongs I have suflFered 
from the son. But this, I speak it out before 
you all, is not at all to my mind. I should think 
myself a niddering and a dastard if I touched a 
hair of Strut-Harold's head. JPor the sake of 
future friendship, and in honour of this gallant 
band, whose Kfe is b\it that which my own once 
was, I am willing to let bygones be bygones, and 
to part as much a friend of Sigvald's as I ever 
was. The day may come when he will have to 

VOL. I. Ok. 


drink Strut-Harold's funeral ale, just as you 
noble Bui will have to drink it after Veseti in 
Bornholm. Then, perhaps, it might seem that I 
should have as strong a hold on Sigvald on my 
native soil as he has now on me in this foreign 
land. But I only speak of this to say before- 
hand that whatever happens, Sigvald and you 
Vikings are as free to come to Denmark, and 
to have an asylum there as you ever were, always 
on the understanding that you do not waste my 
goods or spoil my subjects." 

Here a murmur of applause interrupted the 
King, who called for a horn of mead ; and, 
holding it out at arm's length, called out : 

" I drink to the health of Sigvald, Harold's 
son, and of Astrida, the lady of Jomsburg." 

This toast was received with rapturous ap- 
plause, and it was evident that the King had 
won back all his old favour with the Vikings. 

All now went smoothly, Sigvald was merry 
and cheerful. King Sweyn was no longer 
dull or moody, and the feast was complete 
when an Icelandic skald came forward, and 
asked to be allowed to sing The Song of 


'' Which of the songs of Frithiof ? '' asked the 

'* His Viking Code, lord," said the skald. 

" When one lives with the wolves, one must 
howl with them," said the King. "Besides, I am 
an old Viking myself. Let us hear the song/* 

Then the skald stood before the King's high- 
seat, and calling out " This is the Viking Code 
of Frithiof Hilding's son when he took to sea- 
roving," sung these verses : 

'^^ As he hovered about as a hawk on the wing, and oer sea- 
wastes his war-galleys rode, 
For his champions on board he wrote statutes and laws ; 
now list to his sea-roying code. 

Throw no awning oer ship, never slumber in house, within 

doors stand an enemy's crew. 
On his shield sword in hand let a Viking take rest ; let 

his awning be heaven, the blue. 

Short haft hath the hammer of conquering Thor, but an 

ell long the sword that Frey swayed ; 
^Tis enough ; hast thou heart, stand up dose to thy foe, 

and too short will not then be thy blade. 

When the wind bloweth high hoist thy sail to the top» 

'tis merry in storm not to flinch ; 
Keep her full ! Keep her full ! none but cowards strike 

sail, sooner founder than take in an inch. 


Maids are safe upon shore, they may not come on boards 

were she Freyja, of maiden beware ; 
For that dimple on cheek is a pitfedl for thee, and those 

fair flowing tresses a snare. 

"Wine is Yalfather's drink, and a bout is allowed ; if thy 

head thou canst keep, never fear ; 
Whoso stumbles on land can stand up, but to Ban, to th& 

slumberous, stumblest thou here. 

If a chapman sail by, his ship thou shalt shield, but the 

weak must not tribute withhold ; 
Thou art lord of thy wave, he is slave of his wares, and thy 

steel is as good as his gold. 

Now foemen are sighted, now strife comes and blows^ 
under shield now the warm blood is spilt ; 

If thou yieldest one step, take thy leave of our band, 'tis 
the law, and so do as thou wilt. 

Wounds are Vikings' delight, and they set oS their man,. 

on forehead and bosom when shown ; 
Let them bleed ! never bind them till day comes again, 

not sooner, wilt thou be our own.'* 

The skald's song was received by the com- 
pany with roars of applause. When it was over, 
the King rewarded the singer with a ring of 
gold which he took oflF his arm, saying, as he did 
so, " This take in remembrance of the days 


•ij^hen I too roved the sea- wastes like Frithiof 
the bold/^ 

" A right good song, foster-child," cried old 
Beorn, "that I call a true Viking Code; no 
houses, no women, no marriage, but ever roving, 
ever fighting, ever spoiling, ever drinking until 

It was now late, the pine-torches were ex- 
tinguished, the log fires burned low, and every- 
thing gave token that it was time to retire for 
the night. 

The Queen and the Princess had taken their 
departure even before the Icelander had de- 
livered his song. They and their waiting-women 
found their way to the lodgings provided for the 
King and Queen and for Sigvald and his wife. 

The rest now jfollowed, and so ended the day 
which gave Denmark and King Sweyn a Queen 
and brought women first into Jomsburg. 

Nothing is recorded of the appearance of the 
-wedded couples next morning, but if King Sweyn 
were but half as happy with his Queen as As- 
trida was with Sigvald, he might well have been 
<5onsidered as happy indeed. 



It was not to be expected that King Swop 
would not wish to return to Denmark as soon as 
ever he could get free ; nor was there any longer 
an excuse for keeping him in Jomsburg. The 
season was growing short, and the late Septem- 
ber nights were at hand, when it was supposed 
that the seas grew unsafe. 

Those were the days when little time was lost 
in deUberation, Two days after his return with 
his bride. King Sweyn was ready to depart. As 
they had promised, Sigvald and the Vikings 
prepared to see him home, with a squadron of 
thirty ships, and altogether his homeward voy- 
age promised, as it well might, to be much 
more glorious than that which brought him to 

The only person to be pitied was Gunnhilda^ 
who was now about to be trusted to the tender 


mercies of the reclaimed Viking, who was now 
King of Denmark. 

Many and long were the conversations of the 
sisters before they parted, and the superior 
sense and wit of Astrida greatly helped to cheer 
up her melancholy sister, who, to take her own 
view of the case, felt very much as though she 
were about to embark on the adventurous voyage 
of matrimony with a Danish Bluebeard. Prin- 
cesses talked in those days very much as they 
talk now, and Gunnhilda's words of com- 
plaint, translated into modem language, ran 
thus : 

"I am sure I shall never endure it; I am 
sure I shall be worn and worried to death ; I am 
sure Sweyn will be a brute of a husband." 

So she went on with much more of the same 
sort, to all of which Astrida only answered : 

" No, no, I am sure he will not ; I can see 
he is getting fonder and fonder of you every 
day. If you are unhappy it will be all your 
own fault. If Sweyn were my husband I could 
rule him with a feather.'' 

" I am sure I wish he were,'' said Gunnhilda. 
** If you think he will make so good a husband 



why not change ; you would rule Sweyn, and 
then you would soon rule Denmark/' 

" I would not change if I could," said Astrida, 
« Sigvald is more to me than if he were twenty 
times King of Denmark/' 

" That is just it/' said Gunnhilda, " you are 
fond and proud of Sigvald, and he is fond and 
proud of you. Yours, though it did not begin 
so, ended in being a love-match, while mine was 
one of necessity and force/' 

*'So royal matches always are, my dear," 
said Astrida. " One cannot be a Queen with- 
out smarting for it in some way/' 

" It seems as if I should smart for it in every 
way," said Gunnhilda. 

"Not at all," said her sister. "Just think of 
it. You will go home to Denmark, and have 
ladies in your train, and see many new faces, all 
smiling, and all willing to do you service. 
Here I stay as yet the only lady in Jomsburg, 
with a tire-woman or two to wait on me. 
Would you not find that lonely." 

"Now I think of it,'' said Gunnhilda, "it 
would be very dull here, and perhaps I might 
be better off in Denmark ; but why did we ever 


leave home, where we were so happy ? How I 
envy Geira in our father's grange." 

"No doubt she too finds it dull without us 
and envies us our lot. And what does it all 
come to, but that no one thinks she is half as 
happy as she ought to be, and so no one is quite 
so happy as she might be. Now do try to 
make the best of it, and rely on it you will find 
being a Queen in Denmark not such a dreadful 
thing, after all.'' 

"I will try,'* said Gunnhilda, and so the 
sisters said no more about it. 

The morning of the third day came, and the 
thirty ships of the Vikings, which were to escort 
King Sweyn, were ready for sea. Thirty long- 
ships of fifty oars, each manned by one hundred 
sturdy sailors, lay alongside the wharves in 
the harbour. 

As a little while ago we reckoned the strength 
of our ships by the number of their guns, so in 
those days ships were counted more or less 
powerful for the oars with which they were pro- 
pelled. In the tenth century, a ship of fifty 
oars was considered large, and of the one hun- 
dred men which composed the crew, fifty rowed 


in what we should call "watches," or spells, 
while fifty remained idle till their time came to 
relieve them. These war-ships, or long-ships 
as they were called, were not unlike the galleys 
of the Barbary rovers in more modern times. 
They were hardly seaworthy in a heavy swell, 
such for instance as the large rollers which are 
sometimes met between Norway and Iceland ; 
but in the narrow seas in the Baltic, and even 
in the North Sea between England and Den- 
mark, they were the fighting-ships of the time ; 
and in them, when the Crusades began, the 
Kings and Earls of the North and West skirted 
the German and French and Spanish coasts, till 
passing into the Mediterranean by the Gut of 
Gibraltar, they found themselves in waters 
exactly suited to their craft. 

They were high out of the water at stern and 
stem, and the prow and cutwater were often 
carved into a figure-head in the form of a 
dragon, while the stern, the tiller, and rudder, took 
the shape of its coils and tail. We have already 
seen that in the stern under the poop was the 
captain's cabin. In the bow under a raised 
deck, which exactly corresponds to our fore- 


castle, was the sleeping place of some of the 
crew. All round the undecked part amidships 
ran a gangway, on which, in action, the fighting 
men stood, and the gunwale, in the waist of the 
ship, was heightened in action by a bulwark, on 
the top of which was a rail on which the shields 
of the crew were hung till they were wanted. 
While they were in harbour, or when they lay up 
for the night, the undecked portion of the ship 
was covered by an awning, under which the rest 
of the crew slept. 

For the rest, these ships had a single mast, 
and a large lug sail, with a foresail at the bow, 
but they chiefly relied on their oars for speed, 
and fifty stout rowers sent the long craft along 
at great speed. 

It need scarcely be said that great Kings and^ 
Earls, and such captains as those of the 
Vikings, took great pains with their ships. 
They were gaily painted and gilded at stem and 
stern ; their sails were sometimes red and blue 
and green in stripes ; their vanes and weather- 
cocks and figure-heads were carved and gilded, 
and in a word a war-ship of that period was a 
sight to see, and literally "walked the waters 
like a thing of life.'' 


Let US add that besides bows and arrows and 
spears and boat-hooks, with which the struggle 
with foemen was carried on, each ship brought 
with it into action a good store of stones, the 
rude artillery of the time, which, hurled by the 
stalwart arms of the crew, proved missiles 
fraught with wounds and death to those on 
whom they fell with full force. 

Such and so armed were the thirty ships of 
the Vikings which formed the squadron of 
honour which was to escort King Sweyn and 
his consort to the Danish shore. 

First and foremost among them was Sigvald's 
own ship, which bore what might be called the 
Admiral's flag. Then came the war-drake of 
Thorkell the Tall ; then Bui's, the son of Veseti, 
whose boatswain bore at early dawn those two 
famous chests of gold down to the wharf. Next 
in order was the Snake, as she was called, of 
Vagn, Aki's son, one of the trimmest and 
fleetest of ships, and after her followed the 
galley of Beom, the Welshman, higher out of 
the water than any of the rest, for she had been 
built to face the waves of the Irish Channel, and 
ihe North Sea, and not so gay, but perhaps 


more serviceable in a sea-fight than any of the 

These were the ships of the leaders, the 
others were made up by the ships of captains of 
lesser note ; but there was not one of them 
which could not hold her own against any vessel 
that was likely to meet them in those seas. 

The night before the King sailed, the Vikings 
made him a great banquet, the details of which 
we spare the reader. Suffice it to say that it 
was a great and glorious feast, and • that the 
Queen and her sister, who on this occasion had 
gone back to the true place of women on the 
cross-bench, were both merry and happy, while 
King Sweyn was brimful of joy at the prospect 
of his dehverance, and was proportionately 
gracious to Sigvald and his captains. 

At last the hour of departure came. Down 
the King and Queen walked to Sigvald's ship, 
between a double line of Vikings drawn up on 
either side to do them honour. Then followed 
Sigvald and his captains. When all had stepped 
on board, the gangways to the shore were 
drawn on board. Each ship in order was towed 
out of the harbour by hawsers, made fast to the 


arch above. As Sigvald's ship felt the waves, 
the King took the tiller, for in those times Kings 
and Earls and mighty chiefs steered their own 
iships ; the rowers fell lustily to their oars, the 
warders on the arch sounded their horns, the 
<;rews cheered, and those cheers were re-echoed 
by the thousands of the band who were left 
behind. As the war-ships bounded over the 
waters of the Baltic, King Sweyn exulted as he 
felt that he would be soon a King indeed again, 
and that each stroke of the rowers brought him 
nearer to the end of his captivity. 

One thing, however, we have forgotten to 
say. Astrida went with Sigvald, and they were 
now as inseparable as Bui and his gold chests. 
She had an excuse, too, in departing from the 
custom of the age, which kept women at home 
while their husbands went to sea. She wished 
to see the last of her sister, and only went, she 
said, with a pardonable hypocrisy, to help to 
keep up the poor thing's spirits. 

Were they sea-sick, those ladies? We 
should say certainly not, though we are not 
sure of the fact. Perhaps the sea was too 
smooth, perhaps Gunnhilda was too frightened. 


and Astrida too happy to be ilL They were 
inland ladies, it was tme, who had scarcely ever 
seen the sea in their lives, so that was against 
them. We leave, therefore, the question as we 
found it, in the conviction that if those ladies 
were sea-sick for the first time they must have 
felt most miserable. 

" It did not take long — ^twenty-four hours, it 
may be — to run a ship from Jomsburg to what 
is now Swedish, but was then and long after- 
wards Danish soil Down till the days of Gus- 
tavus Adolphus the provinces in the South of 
the Scandinavian peninsula on the Eastern side 
belonged to Denmark ; and Scania, between 
which and the Island of Zealand flows the 
Sound, was the Danish earldom of Strut-Harold, 
Sigvald's father. 

The Viking captains, running first through 
the Sound between Riigen and the Wendisli 
main, steered for a point in Scania, near which 
the modern town of Malmoe stands, and to do 
this they had to run between Falster and Moen, 
the islands which were to form part of Gunn- 
hilda's dower 

It was no part of Sigvald's plan to pay a 


visit to his father Strut-Harold. Thej were to 
turn neither right nor left till they had landed 
King Sweyn safe and sound on his own land. 

But as the King steered Sigvald's ship a 
little ahead of all the rest^ the men on the watch 
on the forecastle called out as they ran between 
the islands, — 

" Ships ahead ! full fifty of them." 

" Ships ahead ! '* said Sigvald ; " then there 
is gain and spoil to be got. Hold on your course, 
King Sweyn." 

On the Vikings came, and on board every 
ship the crews got ready for battle, for to them 
the odds of fifty to thirty were never counted. 

A little while after the men on the forecastle 
called out again, — 

" They row out to meet us in two lines.'' 

" What shall we do, Sigvald ? '' said the King ; 
" shall we hold on singly, or lash our ships to- 
gether, and so await their onset ? " 

" Hold on singly,'' said Sigvald ; " we cannot 
tell yet whether they are friends or foes." 

"I thought all men were your foes," said 
Sweyn, "and that your hands were against 


" Never against thee. King Sweyn, till the 
day that force drove me to it'* 

" Say no more of that, Sigvald,'' said the 
King. " Let bygones be bygones.** 

"I am loath to fight them,** said Sigvald, 
" though they come on so boldly, and bear 
themselves with such a high hand. This is the 
only voyage I have ever been on which I hoped 
might end as it has begun in peace." 

" But what be they 1" said the King; "Swedes, 
or Northmen, or Russians. Have you not a 
man who can say which they be ? " 

" On the look-out are ten of the best sailors 
in the squadron," said Sigvald ; " and if they 
cannot teU us no man can." 

" Let some one hold the tiller and steer the 
ship," said the King; *'and let us two go for- 
ward and scan the strangers." 

So said so done ; the King gave up the tiller 
to a trusty man, and he and Sigvald were soon 
on the forecastle gazing at the hostile squadron 
which was still at some distance off gliding in 
two lines through the still waters of the Sound. 

" They be tall stout ships," said the King, as 
he gazed at them closely. 

vox. I. Tv 


" Tall and stout indeed," said Sigvald. " Such 
as a man might wish rather to have on his 
side than against him. Northmen, too/' he 
cried, " and no Russians, by their even rowing 
and their gallant trim."" 

" They look," cried King Sweyn, " strangely 
like my own ships, like the fifly I sent out this 
summer to harry Elthelred's coasts." 

By this time the strangers had swept on 
nearer, and Sigvald cried out : 

" True, king, these are Danish ships and none 
other. See, there is your crimson standard 
with the white cross at the mast-head, which the 
emperor gave your father. Now we shall meet 
them as friends and not foes." 

On and on the two squadrons drew to each 
other, till the Vikings, who still held their 
straight course through the Sound, were between 
the two divisions of the Danes, and were almost 
within speaking distance. 

Then ensued what, as Beom afterwards said 
was worth coming all the way from Wales to 
see. Just as the Vikings were in mid-channel 
the Danish ships on either side of them turned 
their prows towards them and bore dow^ on 


them at full speed so as to get them between 
what we should call two fires. There was just 
time for the Vikings if they had chosen to pull 
on and escape the onslaught, but King Sweyn 
now seized the tiller and turned the prow of 
Sigvald's ship towards the enemy, and in less 
time than it takes to describe the evolution the 
Viking squadron lay in a double line, fifteen 
facing one way and fifteen the other, ready to 
receive the foe. So there the two lay, fifteen 
against twenty-five on each side, and all men 
waited to see what would happen ; nor did any 
one except those on board Sigvald's ship yet 
know the nationaUty of the strangers. 

At last the two lines drew near, and as they got 
^thin hail the leader of the Danes called out : 

" Who are ye who fare so unwarily through 
the Danish waters 1 '^ 

"Vikings of Jomsburg,'' shouted Sigvald; 
*' and if you must know why we fare so un- 
warily, it is because we look on these waters 
just as much ours as King Sweyn^s/' 

" Know ye aught of King Sweyn ? " hailed 
the captain. " We are on our way to Jomsburg 
to seek him." 

R 2 


" We know so much about him/' said Sigvald; 
"that he is here with us on board this ship, 
which he now steers/' 

At these words which passed between Sig- 
vald and the Danish Captain from the prow of 
either vessel, the word was passed on board the 
Danish ships to back their oars and to cease their 
preparations for attack. The Danish Captain 
shoved off a boat, boarded Sigvald's ship, and 
«aw the King. Convinced of his safety the twa 
fleets fraternized, and much as King Sweyn 
may have wished for revenge he had no oppor- 
tunity of wreaking it at once. 

That night the squadrons lay together in a 
creek in the Sound. Next morning the King 
and Queen went on board his own fleet and 
steered for Zetland, while the Vikings remained 
behind. As he parted from Sigvald, King 
Sweyn said : 

" Thanks, Sigvald, Harold's son, for all your 
courtesy. The next time we meet I trust I 
may be able to repay you for what you have 
done for us." 



When the Danes sailed off triumphantly with 
their King, the Vikings remained behind, and 
Sigvald proposed that they should all return to 
Jomsburg. All agreed to this except Beom, 
the Welshman, who said : 

'^ You have to command. Captain, and we to 
-obey ; but if I may have my way, I and Vagn 
will go with our three ships on a short autumn 
cruize. To tell the truth, I have had enough 
of women and feasts. I long for the whining 
of the arrow in the air and for the hurtUng of 
spears. Sweeter far to me is the scream of the 
sea-mew than the bleating of sheep. Let us 
stay behind, therefore, and go you all back to 
the burg : we shall be home long before the 
first winter night ;'' which we may inform the 
ireader fell on the 26th of October. 

" Go as you please or stay as you please/* 


said Sigvald, " You and Vagn will do honour to 
the company whithersoever ye go. If ye fall, 
to us remains the blood-feud and the duty of 

'* Never fear for that, Sigvald/' said Beom ; 
** the arrow is not yet feathered that shall be 
my bane, nor the spear-head forged that shall 
rattle through my ribs." 

" Pare in peace then/' said Sigvald ; " we will 
all keep this Yule right jovially in Jomsburg.'' 

So the rest of the squadron rowed back to 
the burg, while Beom and Vagn and a captain of 
theirs, whose name was Wolf the Unwashed, re- 
mained in Bornholm Sound uncertain as yet 
whither to turn in search of spoil. 

While their comrades sails could still be seen 
in the offing Beom said to Vagn, '^ Right glad am 
I, foster-child, that they have left us here alone. 
Now we shall do some good that we are here 
together with three stout ships and three hun- 
dred stalwart men. But as for your fleets and 
squadrons, they frighten oflF chapmen and 
Vikings. You may get fame in a fleet but never 
fee. Sometimes to my mind spoil is better than, 


" I do not think so/' said Vagn ; " I feel as if 
I had spoil enough and sigh for glory." 

** What more glory could you wish for than to 
beat Sigvald and make him yield before you in 
arms. There's no satisfying some people. You 
are at the top of the tree, and instead of sitting 
there and plucking the fruit, you wish to 
stretch out to climb higher in the clouds and so 
down you will come with a fall/' 

All this time Wolf the Unwashed, so called 
because he seldom rejoiced in the pleasures of 
the bath, a huge raw-boned, hrawny Viking stood 
by Kstening to their talk. When it was over he 
said to Beorn : 

" Well, Master Beorn, which is it to be this time, 
gain or glory ? Are we to lie in wait for chapmen, 
or fall on some Vikings like ourselves and spoil 
them ? Whither shall we turn, too ? Up East to 
Lifland or to Samland where the yellow amber 
lies thick on the shore, or to the Swedish Lakes 
or through the Sound ' to the Bay ' where we 
were last spring when we spoiled Thorkell of 
Leira's goods." 

" I am for the Bay," said Vagn with a blush. 

** And I am not," said Beorn doggedly. '^No I 


10 1 we have had quite enough of that work. I 
will not go within a hundred miles of a woman 
if I can help it. Enough harm has been 
done already in that way this autumn. If we 
go to * the Bay,' foster-child, you'll be putting 
your head into the wolf's den only for what, to 
catch a sight of Ingibeorg, ThorkelFs daughter. 
This time we are out for adventures with men, 
and not for woman's love. Far sooner would I 
go back to Jomsburg without dipping oar in 
brine than to go hankering after the prettiest 
maid in the world.'' 

" Just spoken to my mind," said Wolf; "I never 
could see the use of women. Why can't men 
be born as they were in old time, when one leg 
of Borr the giant rubbed itself against the other 
and out came a man. But ever since men have 
been born of women there has been naught but 
strife in the world." 

*' Strife," repeated Vagn indignantly ; " and 
what would you be. Wolf, without strife ? why, it 
is the bread you live on and the cup you drink. 
You ought to be the best friend of women in the 
world instead of being the worst." 

" I mean another kind of strife," said Wolf; 


*^ the strife I hate is what comes of woman's 
words and gabble, praising one man and abusing 
another, sowing discord with the tongue and 
ever reaping a fresh crop. That's the strife I 
hate, and it comes from women. Another kind 
of strife I like, and ever shall like, the strife of 
men, when swords clash in sweet music and red 
wounds rosier than the rose are given and taken. 
That is the strife I like, but as for the strife 
that comes from the backbiting and talebearing 
of women, that I cannot abide.'' 

This was such a very eloquent speech from 
Wolf the Unwashed, that old Beom jumped up 
and clapped him on the back and bawled out : 

" Well spoken, unwashed one ! I only wish 
such words had weight in Jomsburg ; but, alas t 
the golden time is over with us Vikings. It is 
as if the peace of Asgard were gone for ever, 
and the Frost Giants and their hags come into 
the mansions of the gods." 

Then while Vagn looked moodily on he said, — 

" But all this is dry work. Let us have a horn 
of mead, and when we have washed the cobwebs 
out of our throats, we will settle what course we 
shall steer." 


While the two topers dispatched their mead 
Vagn looked listlessly on. He was in a minority, 
and the hope that had flashed across his mind 
of seeing Ingibeorg again faded away. He could 
scarcely venture on an expedition against Thor- 
kell of Leira with one ship, and so was bound 
to follow his companions in arms. 

" There be nice creeks and bays all along the 
Swedish shore among the isles/' said Wolf, 
** whither the chapmen from Russia betake them 
as they run down the Baltic in autumn. They 
will be as full of rich prizes just now as an open 
lake in winter is full of ducks. Let us try them, 

" With all ray heart,'' said Beorn ; " we want 
furs sadly for winter, and these Russian chap- 
men bring richer sables and fox-skins and ermine 
than ever Earl Hacon can get from his Finns 
and Lapps." 

" Then there is amber and gold and honey and 
wax and fine linen and pell and Eastern wares, 
spoil to be had just for stretching out the hand." 

" When shall we sail ? " asked Vagn, as much 
for the sake of saying something as because he 
cared for the cruize. '^ 


" Sail ! '' said Beorn ; " why this very minute. 
Why should we lie idle here when there^s gain 
to he got on every side of us." 

Up the West coast of the Baltic, therefore, 
they steered, that day and the next and the 
next till they had run through Calmar Sound 
and were oflF the coast of Gothland. But they 
scarce saw a sail bigger than a fishing boat, and 
Beorn and Wolf bewailed their ill luck in going 
so far and finding so little. 

On the morning of the fourth day as the sun 
rose they again fell in with a fishing boat, and 
asked the crew for news, and if there were any 
chapmen thereabouts. 

" Yes," said the men, " there was one ran into 
yonder creek last night, or, to tell the truth, five 
of them ran laden to the water's edge with 
goods. They would be an easy prey to your 
long-ships, for they were ill-manned.*' 

This was such good news to the Vikings that 
they cleared the ships for action at once, and 
swept at full speed with their oars round the 
headland into the bay. 

But the sight that met them therfe was hardly 
so agreeably as they expected. There up in the 


bight of the bay lay five ships indeed, but so 
far from being those of chapmen or traders, they 
were long-ships, of a size quite equal to any of 
their own, and at one glance they saw that the 
leader of the five was getting his ships under 
way to attack theuL 

"How say you, Vagn ? How say you. Wolf? " 
hailed Beom to his two comrades. '' Shall we 
hold on or lash ourselves together and await their 
onslaught 1 For as to turning tail, I do not think 
any Viking of Jomsburg would think three 
against five too great odds." 

" Lash ourselves together," was the answer ; 
so they lashed their ships together in line, for 
which there was just time before the enemy 
came down on them. 

When they came within hail, Beom stood up 
on the forecastle of his ship, and called out : 

" Who are ye that fare so boldly in this bay ? 
See ye not that here are warships before you, 
and what is your leader's name V^ 

" Atli is my name, Earl Arnvid's son, of East 
Gothland, close by. But what men are ye ? *' 

" We are our own men," said Beorn ; " and, 
if you must know, we hail from Jomsburg.*' 


** Then there is little love lost between us/' 
said Atli. " Yield your ships or do battle/' 

" We Jomse-vikings," said Beorn, " never yield. 
'Twere better that ye yielded yourselves ; quit 
your ships and goods, and you shall have 
leave to go on shore. Else let the steel decide 
between us." 

A haughty laugh from Atli was all the an- 
swer returned to this speech. On bore Atli 
with his five ships, and as he laid his galley 
alongside Beom's, which lay on the starboard 
side, while Wolf's was in the middle and 
Vagn's on the larboard, the Earl snatched up 
a spear and hurled it among Beorn's crew. 
It was a good shot, and the Viking whom it 
struck met his death. 

Then the battle became general, and the 
Swedes laid their vessels, which they had not 
lashed together, alongside and athwart the 
bows of the Viking's ships. 

For some time the fight was carried on by 
missiles. Showers of stones and flights of 
spears and arrows flew fi-om one side and the 
other, so that for some time it could not be 
seen which had the advantage in this kind of 

'camusEL jLi ibbl imw^veir. ii 'los cisB' '^a^ i^ 

'^u^\T hiih^iA -wesrt rs^ausLLx -^wmmK: xne ^ 

Jub^ Liieii AlH iB&de ss jcasn^ A csij 

^vxjii <«i "i^e saii-2TJ^T iasiSri. sdj becaa i.? cut 
dv*"!! 5iJ irlro £W»i bfifflre iiinL Four skb M 
bj hit L^iiii btf:>re Ba<:*ni m^is avare rf ^ 
4auA^^:rn TLen Le nxsLel ^'jzig die ^oigwaj 
to T/i'ir^ LiHL As he ax^pmciied, AiHs man 
tliruht at Lim with Lis spear, but Beam held up 
lihi hirjA<X, and the blow pased thiXKigh it ; and 
whil^ hij$ foeman was thus entangled, Beom 
^mote at Iiim with his sword, and dealt him 
hiH death-blow. So he fell ; but he was now 
followed by AtU himself who sfNrang on board 
Beoni's ship with a band of m^i. 

All thi8 time Wolf the Unwashed had re- 
mained idle, except in the war of missiles 
Ijctween the two ships to which his was lashed, 
but ivhen he saw this fresh onslaught of Atli 
he sprang across the gunwale on to Beorn's 
ship, and called out : 


" Tip and at them, Beorn ! all power to your 
arm this day/' 

*• Powerful it is/* said Beorn, as he smote 
down another of the foe ; " but something 
tells me, Wolf, that you speak with a 'fey* 

'* * Fey,' or not * fey,* ** said Wolf, " a man can 
but die once,** and as he said this he threw 
himself in Atli's way. 

Just before they met. Wolf *s foot slipped on 
the gangway, which was steeped in gore, and 
as he fell he laid himself open to Atli*s attack, 
who at once thrust him through with his 

A shout from the Swedes behind Atli greeted 
the death of one of the Viking chiefs, and Atli 
and his men pressed on, and began to clear 
the gangway of the Vikings. The battle now 
seemed to hang in doubt, and Vagn, who 
was less pressed, now flew across Wolf*s ship 
to the rescue of his foster-father. As he 
cleared the gunwale he found himself face to 
face with Atli, who smote at him with his 
sword, and clove his shield in twain down to 
the boss. While Vagn was brandishing his 


sword, seeking a bare place on Atli, a heavy 
stone discharged at random smote the Swedish 
leader on the left wrist and made him drop his 
shield. In another moment Vagn smote him 
just above the knee a mighty stroke and struck 
off his leg. 

While Atli looked at the limb in wonder if it 
were really off, Vagn called out : 

" Yes, Atli, so it is, your leg is off.*' 

As he uttered these words he stabbed him 
through the body and gave him his death- 

Then Beorn and Vagn, shoulder to shoulder, 
turned on the rest of Atli's men who had 
boarded the ship, and drove them back to their 
own vessel. By this time so many of the 
Swedes had fallen on board their five ships that 
they had no heart to continue the struggle 
after the loss of their leader. They backed 
off, therefore, and then turned and fled up 
the bay. 

"Shall they escape so, foster-father,*' said 

" By no means," said Beorn ; " cut our lash- 
ings asunder and let us press them home/' 


So said so done. In a little while the three 
Viking ships, with diminished crews, but spirits 
as bold as ever, were under way to attack their 
foes. As they rowed up it was only to see that 
the day was won already. The Swedes threw 
themselves out of their ships and left them, 
some in boats and some by swimming or 
wading to the land. The Vikings took pos- 
session of the abandoned vessels, and by mid- 
day Beorn and Vagn sat on the decks of their 
ships, weary and battle- worn indeed, but still 
masters of five ships and a great store of goods 
and spoil. 

" Not a bad morning's work, foster-father," 
said Vagn. 

" No,'^ said Beorn ; " but I would give up 
all my share could I bring Wolf the Unwashed 
to life again.^' 

" So would I,'^ said Vagn. " He was a brave 
Viking, and if ever a man deserved to win his 
way to Valhalla it was our comrade." 

" We will bind our wounds and bathe our 
limbs to-day," said Beorn ; " to-morrow we will 
land and bury our friend, as a Viking should be 
interred, after the ancient rites." 

VOL. I. ^ 



So they spent that day in rest and leech- 
craft, and slept that night in peace on board 
their ships, their late foes having fled into 
the woods, too scared to venture to attack them 



Some of our readers may, perhaps, feel in- 
clined to inquire what became of Atli's body, 
and those of his foUowere who were slain on 
board Beorn's ship. On this point we can 
satisfy their curiosit3\ It was no part of tlie 
customs of that age to insult the body of a 
fallen foe. On the contrary, it was looked on 
as duty to bury it, and so the morning after 
the conflict those of the enemy who had fallen 
were taken on shore and interred. If any one 
supposes that the last duties to the dead were 
performed by " cremation,'' as it is the modern 
fashion to call it, it would be a mistake. Burn- 
ing the dead had long ceased in the North 
when the events recorded in this story hap- 
pened. That mode of burial went out with 
what ethnologists call the Bronze Age. We 
are now in the Iron Age, when swords and 


mrrov-ieads were of steel, and bodies were 
buried and not biimt. 

HaTin^ di^K)9ed in this manner of their 
fallen foes, the Vikings turned their attention 
to their own men, of whom about twenty, 
including Wolf the Unwashed, had been slain. 
First, they washed their wounds and combed 
their long hair, and arrayed theu- limbs in 
their best attire^ for it was supposed that when 
the dead reached the other world, and entered 
Valhalla, they would need their bravest array 
when they met the bravest and greatest of all 
the Northern race in Odin's hall. As they 
were thus laid out on the poop of Beorn's ship, 
each man had his axe and sword and spear 
by his side. A good archer had his bow and 
arrows handy, and under each corpse lay the 
oblong shield. 

When these duties had been performed, 
Beom and Vagn mustered their crews, and 
then a ciuious ceremony was performed. Though 
clad in their best, it might be remarked that 
the feet of the dead were shoeless. 

Beom now stood up and said : 

" Ye good men and true, who listen to my 


^ords, you all know that faiths now-a-days are 
Dauch mixed. One man believes in Odin and 
the ancient Gods ; another in the White Christ ; 
another, like the Wends, in Peran, the God of 
Thunder ; or in Bielbog, the God of Light ; 
or in Czemebog, the Black God ; and, lost 
of all, there are some, and these not a few, 
of our company who believe in nothing but 
themselves and their good swords ; for, in 
truth, what between priests and monks, Chris- 
tian and heathen, no man knows what to 
believe. If this be so while men are alivo, it is 
not so when they are dead. Men come into 
the world from darkness, Hke a bird that flies 
in at night through a warm, lighted hall, and 
out at the other end into darkness again. 
That is death. But because it is not good 
for a man not to know whither he is 
going when his life is done, we think it 
right to bury our slain after the old fashion, 
so that, as they have fallen like men in 
battle, they may now go to the God of 
Battles, who is ready to receive them into 
his hall." 

Here Beorn paused, and the Vikings mur- 


mured their assent, after their usual custom, to 
his words. Then he went on : 

" We have dressed them in their bravest 
attire. By their sides lie their best arms, 
comely they all look in their wounds and in 
their death ; but one thing is wanting : bring 
hither the hellshoon, lads ! ** 

At these words twenty-one pairs of shoes 
belonging to the dead were brought forward, 
and Beorn went on : 

" We all know the meaning of this. First of 
all, these, our comrades, must walk on the way 
to Hela's house, deep down below nine worlds. 
That is the abode to which all the dead 
must first come, and stay there three days, 
till it is settled where they shall remain for 
ever ; the brave with Odin and Thor, and the 
coward with Hela, the grim goddess, the queen 
of thralls and cravens. None have ever gone 
on that way and returned, save Hermod the 
brisk, Odin's man, who rode on it to hear 
tidings of Balder, when Balder fell ; but we 
know that the path is rough and rugged, and 
that a man will need good shoon to his feet if 
he will fare to Hela. These shoon, then, we 


liind on our brothers' feet ; for all who lie here 
are brothers by the law of the company." 

After these words, Beorn, with the assistance 
of Vagn, put the shoes on each of the dead 
men's feet, taking Wolf last. This was the 
duty of a man's nearest relative ; but in that 
band brotherhood in arms overbore the ties of 
blood ; and Beorn, as captain, was looked on as 
nearer to each of the slain than their nearest 
a*elatives had they been present. 

As he tied each shoe fast by its laces round 
the ankle of the corpse, he said : 

" So I bind this hell-shoe, that it may last to 
Hela's house.'* 
When he came to Wolf, he said, besides : 
" I know not how to bind on a hell-shoe if 
this does not hold." 

Then began what might be called the fimeral 
procession. Four Vikings took up each body, 
raising it on the shield on which it lay, stiflF and 
stark, and bore it down the sloping gangway to 
the shore. 

There, on a little knoll, the ground had been 
levelled for the base of a cairn, large enough to 
hold the twenty bodies of the rank and file, aa 


they might be called, which were arranged round, 
that of Wolf the Unwashed, though now well 
washed in his death, which lay in the middle 
in the place of honour. 

When each had been thus reverently laid on 
earth, a trench was dug round the knoll, so as 
to form a deep ditch, and the excavated earth 
was heaped up over the dead, till they were 
buried about four feet deep. Then the last rites 
were looked on as over ; and the Vikings went 
back to their ships. 

As Beorn walked slowly away with Vagn, he 
said : 

"It cuts me to the heart that we had no- 
time to bury Wolf, the bravest of men, like a 
true Viking, in his own ship, under a cairn. 
This is but a scurvy burial after all." 

" No man need grieve,'^ said Vagn, " if at 
any time he does the best he can. We had no 
time to do more, and V/olf and the rest must 
be content. They will not think worse of him 
in Odin's hall — if there be such a hall — that he 
comes there without his ship ; for the Valkyries, 
who choose the slain in all fights, well 
know how many brave warriors Wolf the^ 


TJnwashed has sent in his time to the banquets 

of Valhalla." 

" It is true/' said Beorn, " we have done our 

best, and the best can do no more. The cairn, 
too, looks high enough, and in days to come no 
man will know how we eked out its height by 
turning a little knoll into a cairn." 

All that afternoon time hung heavy on the 
hands of the Vikings. The funeral ceremonies^ 
still weighed on their minds ; and, in spite of 
the strong ale and mead, in which they drank 
heirship to Wolf and the fallen, dividing tlieir 
goods among the crews. Beorn felt that some* 
thing was needed to restore the spirits of the 

" What think you,'' he said to Vagn, " of 
marching up the country to-night, and seeing 
what spoil we can find ? Somewhere here- 
abouts is the temple of the Eastern Goths ; 
and, if we hit upon it, Ave might find ample 

*' But can we rob a temple 1 " asked Vagn^ 
" Have we not just buried our dead with the 
rites of the ancient Gods ? " 

" Temples," said Beorn, sententiously, " were 


made to be robbed! They ever have been 
robbed in my time, and ever will be. Why, 
we had a priest, not so long ago, in 'Joms- 
burg, that same shaveling, who- told his beads 
and sang his hymns so dolefully, who said the 
ancient Gods were but idols, and that no God 
lived in temples made with hands." 

" It goes against me to spoil the temples of 
the Gods,*' said Vagn ; "but if all the band will 
go, I will not stay behind." 

"We will put it to the men, then,*' said 
Beorn. "Poor fellows, they need something 
to keep up their hearts. That Atli and his 
followers fight well.*' 

So Beorn went about the crews, and found, 
as he had expected, that they had no scruples 
of the kind which hampered Vagn's mind. 
One said he thought it as little harm to rob a 
temple as to burn a church ; and he had often 
burned the churches of the Christians away in 
the West. Another said he would not burn a 
temple, though he did not mind easing their 
idols of their useless goods ; another thought 
if the idols were really gods, they would know 
how to defend themselves. The end of it all 


Was, that the Vikings agreed to go that nigt 
in search of the temple of the Eastern Goths ; 
what they might do when they found it, and 
had accomplished the adventure, was another 
thing. Perhaps they might neither burn nor 
sack the temple after all. 

So at nightfall they set out, one hundred 
picked men, the rest being left to mind the 
ships, and keep open the line of retreat. As 
they passed along a path through the thick 
pine forest, about as bewildering as the Ashantee 
bush, Beorn said to Vagn : 

" This wood is like a man's life, foster- 
child ; no one can tell when and where it 
wiU end." 

As he said this, an arrow whirred through 
the air, and one of the band behind fell dead, 
stricken in the throat. 

" There ended one," said Vagn ; " and yet 
the wood has not ended/' 

" On, on ! " said Beorn. " I see a clearing 
ahead. If we reach that, we shall, at least, see 
the hand that launches these shafts." 

A moment after, one of the band behind 
called out : 


" We have caught the man who shot the 
arrow, if it be fair to call him a man/' 

" Bring him hither," said Beorn. " Let me 
scan him by the moonbeams,'^ for we have for- 
gotten to say that it was at the full. 

So the baneman of the Viking was brought 
to the front, and found to be a boy of scarce 
ten years old, whose puny arm seemed scarce 
able to draw the bow which he had used so well. 

'* Speak/' said Beorn, sternly. " What drove 
thee to slay one of our band, against whom 
thou hadst no quarrel ? ^' 

" Did one of you fall to my shot ? " said the 
boy. " Then I have avenged my father." 

" How say you that ? " said Beorn. " W hen 
slew we your father, or any of your kin ? " 

" Two nights since,'' said the boy, " he fell 
with Atli, Arnvid's son, in fight with you 
Vikings. All day have I been watching you in 
the wood to take my revenge." 

*•' Spoken like a man,'' said Vagn, "though 
you be but a boy. Beorn, we can never take 
such a child's life. Let him have peace ; for, 
after all, he only avenged his father, and the 
blow fell nearest to him." 


*' He shall have peace/' said Beoru ; " but he 
must do something towards an atonement. He 
shall show us the way to the temple which we 

"What is your name, lad?" said Vagn. 
** It is ill speaking with a nameless man." 

" My name is Grim/' said the boy. " Grim 
Askel's son, that Askel whom ye slew yester- 
morn, and whom I have now avenged." 

" Will you take peace of me. Grim ? " said 
Vagn ; **and will you do something for us to 
save your hfe 1 '* 

"That depends/' said the boy, "on what 
that something is ; there be things which I 
could not do to save my life." 

" Spoken Uke a good and true man again," 
said Vagn, kindly. "We seek the temple of 
the Eastern Goths, which lies somewhere near ; 
will you guide us to it ? " 

The boy paused for a moment, while a smile 
played across his face in the bright moonbeams, 
and then said : 

" Yes, Vikings ; I will guide you to the 

" Lead on then,'^ said Beorn ; " and remem- 


ber, Grim, that your life is forfeited already. 
At the least sign of guile or treachery, I strike 
you dead with this axe/' 

This threat, strange to say, seemed to fall 
on idle ears. All that the boy said was : 

" Yes ; I see it is a broad and bitter axe. 
No doubt many have had their death-blow at 
its edge. Hath it a name, pray. Captain ? " 

" I call it the * Ogress of War,' " said Beorn. 
" Two nights ago some of you Easterlings felt 
her edge." 

" Indeed ! " said the boy ; and on he went 
before Beorn. 

So they passed through wood after wood, 
and clearing after clearing, seeing no houses 
until their patience began to fail, and then the 
Vikings asked how far they had still to 

" Are there no houses in this land ? ^' said 


Vagn to Grim. 

" None,'* said the boy. *' I thought it was 
not houses, but temples, that ye wished to find?'* 

** So we do,'' said Beorn. " Bring us speedily 
to the temple, or — " And as he said this he 
raised his axe. 


" Can I bring the temple nearer than it is ? ' 
9sked Grim. '*Yoii Vikings, I know, are so 
strong, and can do anything. I am but a boy, 
and must do what I can, and that is but 

" But is it near this temple ? '' asked Vagn. 

"Not far oflF now," said Grim. "Not more than 
five bowshots beyond this next belt of wood." 

"Let us haste towards it," said Beorn. 
**The night is wearing out, and it is as far 
back as hither." 

" So it is,^' said the boy. 

The Vikings reached the belt, and soon 
crossed it. As they came into the open space 
beyond, Grim pointed to a building, partly 
hidden in the mist, which clung to the ground. 

" Behold the temple, the only temple that I 
know of in these parts." 

"The temple! the temple!" shouted the 
Vikings, as they dashed forward into the open 

As they drew nearer to the building, Beorn 

" If it be a temple, 'tis the strangest one I 
ever saw, though I own I do not know much of 


temples either outside or in. But if I called it 
anything, I should say it was a wooden church, 
for all the world like those I used to see and 
to worship in away in Wales, my native land." 

" What you call a church we call a temple," 
said Grim. " We are all Christians in this part 
of East Gothland, since Anschar came.'' 

" And who is Anschar 1 " asked Vagn, while 
Beorn and the Vikings paused in their course. 

'^Anschar is a priest from England/' said 
Grim. " He has been here ever since I can 
remember, and has built this temple to the 
Christians' God, and made us all Christians 
hereabouts, so to speak." 

In the meantime, Beorn and the Vikino-s had 
recovered their surprise to find that, while seek- 
ing for a temple, they had fallen on a church. 

" What is the difference between a temple 
and a church % " asked he that had owned to 
burning of churches in the West. " In both there 
is silver, and sometimes gold. Both are the 
fair spoil of such Vikings as us." 

Then the Vikings dashed on, dragging Grim 
with them. 

But as they neared the church, they heard 


the strains of solemn music and of hymns 
chanted in the little building. At the same 
time they remarked that lights shone through 
tte narrow slits which served as windows. 

'' Be the priests in this temple up and stirring 
^t this hour ? " asked Beorn of Grim. " If 
they were honest men they woul d be in their 

*' But are you not honest men ? *' retorted 
'Grim ; " and are ye in your beds 1 " 

" Do they always rise so early 1 " asked 

" They are always in church at this hour/' said 
^rrim, " and they call it Lauds or * Praises ' — 
that is how they begin the day, with prayers 
^d hymns." 

" Shavelings and cowards ! " said Beorn. " Let 
us break into the church, and scatter them and 
their praises to the four winds, and sack the 
church of everything it contains worth carrying 

"You will find little in it worth spoiling," 
said Grim. '* These priests are poor indeed, 
and live by the labour of their own hands. All 
these clearings in the wood were made by them. 

VOL. I. T 


Since they have been here we have never hadj 
dearth in East Gothland, for they sow wheat, -^ 
and rye, and oats, and their harvests are always 1^ 
good/' y 

" And, Grim,'* asked Beom, as they neared the 
church door, "when the harvests fail do you-^^ 
bum the priests in their church, as the Swedes L, 
do their kings, in time of dearth ? '* ..^ 

" I tell you since Anschar has been here the L 
harvests have been ever good," said Grim; h 
" but see, the door opens, and he comes out to 
meet you." 

As he spoke, out of the church came first a 
band of choristers, singing a sweet hymn, and 
then incense-bearers swinging their censers, 
which gave out the perfume of frankincense, so 
strange to the nostrils of the Vikings. Then 
came Anschar himself, followed by his priests 
and deacons, all in their holy vestments, and all 
chanting the same solemn strain. 

As they advanced a sort of panic-fear seized 
the rude Vikings, and even Beorn himself re- 
coiled before the advance of the Christian 

Whether it was that Anschar was aware of 


their approach, and had come out thus to meet 
them in the hope of arresting their wrath, or 
whether he thought it was a crowd of the in- 
habitants of the country who had gathered to- 
gether thus early to worship at the church, is 
uncertain. What is sure is, that he, by a most 
happy thought, came out thus boldly to meet 
the invaders, and so took them at a great dis- 
advantage by the suddenness and solemnity of 
his movements. 

Slowly but surely the white-robed band ad- 
vanced against the armed array of the Vikings, 
who, as they came closer, opened on either side 
to make way for them till Anschar stood face to 
face with Grim, and Beorn, and Vagn. 

Then the singing ceased, and Anschar, in a 
still low voice, so different from the rude shouts 
and hailing of the Vikings, said to Beorn : 

" God's peace be with thee, noble Captain. 
Come ye thus early to worship at our church 1 " 
Beorn clutched his axe with uneasy fingers, as 
though he was itching to cleave the holy man to 
the chine, and some of the Vikings drew their 
swords and waited for a signal to strike down 
the Christians and sack the church. But no 

T 2 


such signal came. Beom, bold as he was, quailed 
before the clear cold gaze of the priest, and with 
&ltering tongue he said : 

" You bid us God's peace ; but it is on war 
rather than peace that we come." 

" War ! " said Anschar. " Why war with us ? 
We are not men of war, but men of peace. We 
bring peace in Grod's name to all the world, and 
to you and your band among the rest.^* 

Still Beorn quailed and winced before him, 
but he would not yield till he had made another 

" T tell you again, priest, we are men of war 
and not of peace. War is the breath of life 
in our nostrils. I tell you we came to sack your 
church, and to slay you all if you resist, and not 
to worship to your idols with that strange savour 
in our nostrils." 

" Slay us if you will," said Anschar ; " we will 
not resist ; not one of us would lift his hand 
against you. But sack not nor burn the church, 
for it is God's house, and on him that takes 
aught from God the wrath of God will surely 

" You speak," said Beorn, " like the priests I 



leard wken I was a boy, not so big as this lad 
tiere, and your words have a strange sound, as 
an echo of things long since forgotten. So sang 
and so spoke the priests in my father's house at 
Deganwey in Wales/' 

At these words Anschar looked at Beom and 
said : " Are you British, and not Norse, by birth ? 
and what was your father's name 1 " 

^^His name/' said Beom, impatiently, but 
with the air of a man who felt forced to answer 
even against his will, ^^ his name was Howel, 
Howel the Grood. He was lord of seven can- 
treds, and some of that rule is still mine by 
right. My mother's name was Githa^ daughter 
of a Norse sea-king, and though a Welshman 
bom, that was why I was called Beom. But 
why, priest, do you ask so closely after my 
lineage 1" 

" Because I, too," answered Anschar, ** have 
been at Deganwey, in the good old times, in the 
hall of Howel the Good. His soul is with the 
saints, I tmst ; and here I, a missionary from 
the Anglo-Saxon Church, meet his son in East 
Gothland, and he tells me he will sack my 
church and spoil God of his goods." 



"It is the way of the world/' said.Beorn, 
bitterly. " Every man makes the bed on which 
he must lie. Had my father lived I had been 
now, no doubt, a Prince and a Christian in 
Wales, but I went early out sea-roving with my 
grandfather, and one autumn, when we came 
back from our cruise, we found that a band of 
Vikings from Scotland had landed on the fair 
sands of Conway, and had slain my brother, and 
carried oflF my mother, and sacked Deganwey, 
the strong castle, and only left me the wasted 
land and starving folk. Then I took to the sea, 
and harried the coasts of Scotland east and 
west, and forsook the Christian faith, and took 
to that of the Northmen, and now, as many of 
us here will tell you, we halt between two faiths, 
and know not which to believe. The old Gods 
have no power, and as for your new white 
Christ, he seems too craven and contemptible 
for any Viking to trust in." 

" The day will come,'' said Anschar, solemnly, 
" when not only you Vikings, but every man in 
the North, aye, and though it be far to see, 
when every man on this middle-earth will be- 
lieve in Christ, as I and these babes do, and when 


there shall be but one God and one faith in all 
the world/' 

As he uttered these words, with a prophetic 
fervour, he spread his arms wide abroad, as 
though embracing the Vikings, who shrank 
from him, while they gazed on him as it were 

Anschar saw his opportunity, and went on : 

" It was well that ye came thus early, for it is 
the day of the Holy Saint Michael the Arch- 
angel, and after this procession, in which ye 
will join, we will all worship in the church, and 
thou Beorn at least wilt renew the orisons of 
thy youth." 

As he spoke, Anschar gave the word to the 
choristers, and the incense-bearers moved on. 
Beorn and the Vikings — ^half in jest, half in 
tamest — joined in the train, and the end of 
that early meeting was, that those who went 
out to burn and kill remained, if not to worship 
with the Christians, at least to be spectators of 
their service. 

The church was filled to overflowing, and such 
iauds had never been celebrated within its walls 
i)efore. The Vikings sat the service out in 


gloomy wonder at the solemnity of the cere- 
monies, the splendour of the vestments, the 
sweet fragrance of the incense, and the briUiancy 
of the lights. 

When it was over,. Anschar said to Beom be- 
fore they left the church : " Ye came out to rob 
and spoil See what there is in our sacristy 
worth taking. A man, were he to lose his soul,, 
might lose it for things of greater price.'' 

As he uttered these words, he led Beom to- 
wards the little cupboard in the sacristy, whicb 
contained their church plate. A chalice of 
latten, a patin of the same, and a flagon of brass^ 
were all their goods. 

** If you wish for spoil from churches you must 
go where Christianity is older," said Anschar. 
** There you may find silver and gold and gems. 
In Sweden Christianity is too young to be rich,, 
and even our vestments, though outwardly 
splendid, would be not worth your long march 
to take." 

" One thing we need,'' said Beorn, " if we may 
have it, and that is food and drink." 

"Both ye shall have and willingly," said 
Anschar. "That is, bread and flesh, ale and 


mead, we have none, and never taste ; but if milk 
and cream will serve your wants, of these we- 
have ample store." 

" We were unworthy the name of Vikings,'* 
said Beorn, " if we needed ale and mead every 
day. In this world a man must take what he 
can get.'' 

So the Vikings were fed on the best that the 
priests could furnish, and at daybreak they were 
ready to return to their ships. Before they went 
Anschar said to Beorn : 

" One thing, Beorn, Howers son, I beg of thee, 
and that is what thou mayst well grant, in that 
I, all unworthy though I be, by the grace of God^ 
have saved thee from the commission of mortal 


'* What is that r' 

" The life of this boy Grim,'' said Anschar. 
"He has guided thee back to Christ, and who 
knows if the seed sown on this, St. Michael's 
day, may not spring up in some of your hearts 
for good." 

" He has slain one of our men," said Beorn, 
" and his life is due by all the laws of the blood- 
feud to the band." 


" But he was a true and faithful guide," said 
Vagn, " and besides he only did what he was 
bound to do in avenging his father/' 

" Not so ! not so ! '' cried the priest, " it is 
^01 idle and a wicked custom, and clean against 
Ood's will, who says, ' Vengeance is mine ; I will 
repay, saith the Lord/'' 

"What atonement can he offer to the band 
for their brother," said Beorn, doggedly. 

" None, ''said Anschar ; " the boy hath neither 
kith nor kin now that his father is gone ; but I 
<;an offer an atonement for him, and that is the 
blood already shed for every man on the Cross, 
the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 
That atonement I can offer, and that blood far 
outshines in worth the lives of all the peoples of 
the earth/' 

" But how do you offer it ? " asked Beorn. 

" In the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and 
Blood of Christ/' 

"I do not understand thee/' said Beorn, 
" though methinks I have heard something 
before, as it were in a dream. But to show thee 
that I value thy prayer, and in memory of the 
days when I was a Christian in my father's hall. 


I will give thee the life of this boy, and I, myself, 
'^vdll pay to the band the full price of a man in 
atonement for the comrade we have lost." 

" Spoken like a noble chief," Baid Anschar, 
^^ and now Grim you belong to me/' 

" With all my heart,'' said the boy, as he flew 
to the priest's side. " Now I will be as thou art, 
and slay no more men/' 

Then the priest and the Vikings parted, and 
Beom and his men marched back to their ships 
through the wood. On their arrival they found 
that nothing had happened during their absence. 
But if we must say it, those who returned had 
to bear many jests from those who stayed 
behind. " Who ever heard," they said, " of men 
going out to rob a temple, and finding it, and, 
yet returning without a penny's worth of spoil." 



On the 1st of October, two days after the day 
of St Michael, the Yikmgs set off on their 
return to Jomsburg. The day before they 
shared the spoil which they had found on board of 
AtU's five ships. Though not a man, alive or dead 
or wounded, had been left on board, there was 
great store of goods robbed from all the chap- 
men, which that Viking had been able to board. 

There were in fact all those costly Eastern 
wares and silken stuffs which Beom had before 
mentioned, as Ukely to fall in their way. 
Amber from the Livonian and Prussian coasts; 
gold and silver rings from Russia ; honey, mead, 
ale, and arms. 

All these were brought to "the Pole,^' as it 
was called ; that is, to the Standard Pole, that 
they might be shared or sold for the common 
good. Everything was then portioned into ten 


lots: one of which went to SigvaJd, the Captain 
of the band ; two were reckoned the portion of the 
company itself ; and one lot went to the captain 
of each ship; and the other six were equally 
divided amongst the crews. 

When all was over, Beom said to Vagn, " This 
has not been so bad an autumn cruise. How good 
it was of Atli to save us the trouble of collecting 
it from each of the chapmen.^' 

" It has been a profitable cruize indeed,'* said 
Vagn ; " but what shall we do with the ships, we 
have not men enough to man them and take 
them home." 

" No,*' said Beom ; " then they must go the 
way of all ships at last— either to be sunk in the 
water or burnt in the flames. To Ran or to 
Loki all wood comes at last, and these timbers 
shall go both ways at once. The Goddess of the 
Sea shall have her share, and the God of Fire his. 
We will set them on fire as they lie, and when 
they have burnt to the waters' edge, the hulks 
will sink to the bottom, and the sea will have 
her spoil.*' 

That very night Anschar and his priests and 
acolytes were astonished at a great glare towards 


the coast, and sent the swift-footed Grim out to 
spy and bring back news. Through the woods 
the boy watched the flames, as they devoured 
the trim ships on which his father had sailed. 
Then towards dawn, when the flames grew low, 
each hull blazed up for a moment, and then sank 
to the bottom with a dull hissing sound. When 
all was dark again, he stole back through the 
black forest and brought word to Anschar. 

"It was only Beom and his Vikings amusing 
themselves with burning AtU's ships.'* 

Next day the Vikings started on their three 
days* voyage to Jomsburg. Three days and 
nights, as they reckoned, would bring them home 
if the weather were fine ; and finer morning 
never smiled on man than that on which they 
made their way out of the mesh of islands which 
fringed the coast of East Gothland and ran out 
into the open Baltic. 

So the weather continued till they reached 
Calmar Sound, and were running between the 
Swedish main and Oland. 

Early in the morning, when Beorn came on 
deck, and took the tiller from the old sea-dog 
who had steered the ship through the last watch. 


he looked round the sky, as all sailors are wont^ 
and then growled a little and shook his head. 

" You may well shake your head, Beorn,^' said 
the sailor. " We shall shake all over all of us 
ere the day be over/' 

It was dead calm, and there was a low haze 
which hung to the coast on either side, and dis- 
torted natural objects in a mirage or Fata Mor^ 
gana. Headlands were inverted, rocks seemed 
double, trees stood on their crowns in the water 
with their trunks in the air. Everything was 
disturbed and turned upside down. Overhead 
was a great bank of cloud coming up against the 
little wind that blew in flaws as though it could 
never find strength to blow across the deep 
more than a dozen yards. 

** Aye, aye," said Beom, " our timbers will 
soon shake as well as our heads. Here is a 
tempest and a gale coming up, and it will be on 
us in no time ; and now that we have passed 
Calmar Bay, there is never a haven to run for 
on this h-on-bound coast." 

'* Bad weather for long-ships, Beorn,'' said the 
old sea-dog. " Now if this were a ship of burden^ 
short, and round, and deep, we might ride like a 


nut-shell over the waves ; but what can one do 
with one of these long, narrow craft but stand by 
her till she breaks her back, and then make up 
one's mind to sleep in the sea caves with Ran." 

" Not quite so bad as that, I hope/' said Beom 
"I hope still to bear my bones back to my 
native land, and not to leave them by Baltic 
side. But this is the time to do, and not to 
talk. Put the ship about while I hail Vagn, 
and say what I mean to do.'' 

The old sailor took the tiller, bade the 
rowers back to starboard and give way to lar- 
board. Round flew the ship, while, as they 
turned, Vagn and the other vessel came up close 
on their quarter. 

" Whither away now, foster-father," he 
■ shouted. " Back to East Gothland to look for 
Atli's and Wolf s bones." 

Back to where Calmar Bay opens into the 
Baltic, our only shelter against the coming 
storm. Follow my lead, and put your ship 

" Were I you," said Vagn, " I would hold on 
till every oar snapped in the row-locks, and tih 
the mast came toppling down. Why be afraid 


of a cap full of wind, which, after all, may never 

The words were scarce out of his mouth when 
the black clouds oyer their heads broke, and 
there was a flash of forked lightning, which 
seemed to run along the water, and plough up 
its smooth face. Then down came the rain in 
torrents, and out blew the wind in their teeth. 
In the narrow sound, where the water was pent 
Tip between the high shore on either side, the 
waves began to roll at once ; and, as to Vagn's 
notion of holding on, it was confuted by the 
fact that it was only with the greatest difficulty, 
that he and his comrades succeeded in accom- 
plishing the sifbple manoeuvre which Beorn had 
just effected. 

As it was, each ship broke several oars on 
either broadside, and shipped a deal of water, 
and was altogether in a crippled state. 

" Now, give way with a will," shouted Beorn 
over the roaring of the wind and sea. " We 
must run before the, storm, and try to make 
Calmar Bay, but it will be as much as we can 
do in thi9 sea, where long-ships can scarcely 

vol. I. "Vi 


So the three ships ran before the wind, which 
sent great waves after them^ threatening to 
poop them every moment. It was literally a 
race for their lives, and the three ships cut the 
water with awful speed. 

And now the opening into Calmar Bay began 
to show itself. This was the • most delicate 
operation of the whole, for the way in was 
fringed with reefs and rocks a-wash, and right 
in mid-channel was a shoal over which the 
breakers broke furiousl3\ Added to this, the 
three ships had now to change their course, 
and to bring themselves broadside to the wind, 
which exposed them, but only for a short time, to 
the full force of the storm. 

On this occasion as ever Beorn led ; his was 
the post of danger ; he was first to run the 
gauntlet of those shoals and that raging 

" Follow me close," he roared to the others. 
" I know the way in well — I could find it in 
the dark.'' 

On he went, making the men ease their oars 
on the windward side, and pull with redoubled 
force on the lee. It was a near thing, but he 


contrived to run his ship in in safety ; and in a 
moment, after passing the shoal in mid-channel, 
was, so to speak, in smooth water, and able to 
look back on those that followed him. He had 
not to wait long. Next to him came Vagn, 
whose crippled ship was harder to steer. 

"He will cleai' it,'' cried Beorn ; "the boy 
will clear it/' 

But he did not. Just then the wind seemed 
to blow spitefully with twofold force. Vagn's 
ship was driven on the shoal to leeward, and in 
a moment or two seemed to double up like 
matchwood as she took the ground. Worse 
still, her comrade, in trying to give her a wide 
berth, was thrown on the rocks on the opposite 

" Both gone, both gone," said Beorn. " Two 
tall ships, and so many bold men. But launch 
the boat, lads ; she will live in this smooth 
water ;" and, with that, the hardy veteran 
threw himself into the skiff, that danced 
up and down on what he called the smooth 
water, and rowed as near as he could under the 
lee of the shoal on which Vagn's ship had split, 
but still clung together at the forecastle, which 


was hoisted high up into the air, and over 
which the waves broke incessantly. 

As they reached the spot, Beorn's quick eye 
recognised the form of his foster-child clinging 
to the figure-head amidst the gleaming water. 

"Back up/' he cried, ** as close as you can to 
the shoal on the leeward side/' 

This was done ; and, to Beorn's delight, he 
saw that Vagn had seen their boat. It was of no 
avail to shout, but Beorn beckoned to him what 
to do. His last chance was to throw himself 
from the figure-head, and to try to fight his way 
through the raging surf into the still water be- 

With a superhuman eflFort Vagn threw himself 
into the waves. A little while and he seemed 
lost, but at last he emerged bej^ond the line of 
surf, and was drifted, battered and breathless, to 
Beorn's boat. \ 

" Take him up tenderly,*' said Beorn. " There \ 

is life in him yet, and, in saving him, we have 
saved the boldest heart in Jomsburg.'' 

Three days afterwards Beorn and Vagn 
reached the castle, and were welcomed as those 
vho had escaped out of the very jaws of death. 


They had not returned as triumphantly as they 
hoped, but though the Vikings mourned tlieir 
lost comrades and their tall ships, they felt con- 
soled when they thought things might have gone 
far worse, for they might have lost as well 
Beorn the Welchman, and Vagn Aki's son, both 
of whom all agreed Jomsburg could never